WASHINGTON (AP) – Republicans spoke out strongly Wednesday against the $ 1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill proposed by Democrats as lawmakers awaited a decision from the Senate MP. that could reinforce or potentially kill a fundamental provision that raises the federal minimum wage.
Despite their slim majority in Congress, Democratic leaders were prepared to push the radical package through the House on Friday. They hoped that the Senate, where changes seemed likely, would follow quickly enough to have legislation on President Joe Biden’s desk by mid-March.
As of late Wednesday, no Republican from either house had publicly said they would back the legislation. Republican leaders were refining attacks on the package as a job killer doing very little to reopen schools or businesses closed by the pandemic. And that was not only wasteful, but also unscrupulous.
“I have yet to see a Republican find something there that he agrees with,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California. “I think all Republicans believe in three simple things: They want a bill that will get us back to work, to school, and to health. This bill is too expensive, too corrupt and too liberal. “
Growing opposition suggested that Biden’s first major legislative initiative could meet unanimous opposition from the Republican Party. That was a counterpoint to the new president’s refrain during his campaign about uniting the country and a repeat of the Republican wall that new president Barack Obama encountered in 2009 and most of his administration.
Democrats showed no signs of backing down, citing the help the measure would provide to individuals, businesses and state and local governments.
“If Republicans in Congress want to oppose all of that, my answer is: good luck,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said in the Senate floor.
By Wednesday night, the biggest suspense was due to an early decision by Elizabeth MacDonough, the Senate’s independent arbiter of its rules, which promised huge political and legislative consequences.
The aid bill includes a provision that for five years would raise the federal minimum wage to $ 15 an hour. The MP is involved because Democrats are pushing the $ 1.9 trillion blanket measure in Congress under special rules that will allow them to avoid a Republican filibuster in the Senate.
Those same rules prohibit provisions with an “incidental” impact on the federal budget because they are primarily driven by other policy purposes. The parliamentarian decides whether a provision passes that test.
With Republicans strongly against raising the minimum wage, the only way to survive is by including it in a filibuster-proof bill like the COVID-19 relief measure. To end an obstructionism, the Democrats would need 60 votes, an impossibility for them in the Senate divided 50%.
If the MP decides that the minimum wage provision can stay in the bill, it would be a huge boost to its proponents. But there would be no guarantee that the measure will survive because some moderates oppose it or want it to be rebranded. That suggests a grueling negotiation over his final form looms.
A decision by the parliamentarian that the minimum wage increase should fall from the bill could be fatal, but not necessarily. Democrats could employ a little-used procedural move to incorporate the minimum wage provision into the bill with just 51 votes anyway, but it was unclear whether they could muster enough support to do so.
The minimum wage has stood at $ 7.25 since 2009. Winning the raise is a top priority for progressives at a time when Democrats control Congress and the White House.
The blanket bill would provide millions of Americans with direct payments of $ 1,400 to help them weather the pandemic that has stalled much of the economy for a year and killed half a million people. It contains billions of dollars for COVID-19 vaccines and tests, schools, state and local governments, and emergency unemployment benefits, while providing tax or payment cuts for many families with children.
In a sign of tough policy looming, top Republicans suggested that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and Schumer pump money into the bill for their own states.
McCarthy said the bill had $ 100 million to help extend the San Francisco-area BART commuter rail system south to San Jose. That project was previously approved by the Trump administration and is not in the San Francisco district of Pelosi, a senior Democratic aide said.
McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, suggested that Schumer had won money for a bridge connecting upstate New York to Canada. A senior Democratic aide said the bill contains $ 1.5 million for the bridge, which is in the district of Rep. Elise Stefanik, RN.Y. The aide said it was requested in 2020 by the Trump administration’s Department of Transportation, which was headed by Elaine Chao, McConnell’s wife.