In a tense 220-211 vote, the US House of Representatives approved the massive $1.8 trillion American Rescue Plan that will provide coronavirus relief to Americans. This will immediately head to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.
Without GOP Support
Unlike the previous installments of relief packages, the American Rescue Plan did not enjoy Republican support. Voting came down to party lines, with all GOP House members voting against the measure. A lone Democrat, Representative Jared Golden of Maine, joined the Republicans in voting against it. “Why would we print and borrow $2 trillion when we’re so close to crushing this virus and returning to a way of life that all Americans sacrificed?” asked Representative Lloyd Smucker (PA).
After the vote, Republicans took aim at the Democrats, saying this was more than coronavirus relief. At the same time, the GOP worried about potential inflation and potentially overheating the economy. “So let’s be clear. This isn’t a rescue bill, it isn’t a relief bill, it’s a laundry list of left-wing priorities that predate the pandemic and do not meet the needs of American families,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA).
Using the Reconciliation Process
Knowing full well that they hold a thin majority, Democrats went for a process called reconciliation to pass the relief bill in the Senate. This allowed them to vote on the measure and secure approval through sheer numbers. Usually, votes in the Senate require a two-thirds majority. The House earlier passed legislation for the relief plan, but the Senate signed a version that moved some of the House’s excess proposals. Also, reconciliation allowed Democrats to put in measures opposed by Republicans. This includes $350 billion in aid for state and local governments. GOP members say that the budget is a political handout that is too excessive.
In addition, the Democrats also used the reconciliation process to sneak in provisions that have nothing to do with coronavirus. This includes a measure to enact a federal $15 an hour minimum wage. Ultimately, the Senate Parliamentarian recommended dropping the measure, as it has no relation whatsoever to the bill. Democrats ignored the recommendation and proceeded to vote on the measure, which won. However, the Senate removed the measure, and along with a reduction in unemployment benefits signed the new version. The recent House vote dealt with the Senate version. Republicans decried the fact they got shut out of the process through reconciliation, Also, they said that the package is too broad. In their estimation, only 9% of the funds will go directly toward COVID-19 relief.
Relief Bill Contents
The American Rescue Plan provides a one-time $1,400 check to many Americans as support for hardships caused by the pandemic. Americans earning up to $75,000, or couples earning under $150,000 are eligible for the support. In addition, the bill provides allowances for dependent children worth upwards of $300 per month for each child under the age of six, or $3,600 a year. For older children up to age 17, families will get $3,000 a year in the new child tax credit program.
The bill also extends the jobless aid supplement by $300/week through September 6. In addition, it makes the first $10,200 of jobless benefits tax-free to households with incomes under $150,000.
Other Items in the Budget
Aside from the direct payments, unemployment, and child tax credits, the bill provides $14 billion to distribute vaccines. Also, it sets aside $49 billion for Covid-19 testing, contact tracing, and personal protective equipment. In addition, the bill contains $125 billion for K-12 schools and around $40 billion for higher education. Then, there is $39 billion in child care grants, $25 billion in rental assistance, and $30 billion for public transit.
Also, the bill contains provisions to aid certain industries suffering from the pandemic. This includes support for the airline industry, the restaurant industry, and concert venue operators. Meanwhile, the controversial Paycheck Protection Program will get $7.25 billion in new money to service loans for small businesses. It will now allow more nonprofits to apply, including advocacy groups and lobbyists.
Watch the Bloomberg Quicktake Now video coverage as the House passes $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package:
Do you support the American Rescue Plan? Are you eligible for the stimulus checks that the government will issue? More importantly, do you think this will work and improve the American economy during this time of the pandemic? Let us know what you think. Share your comments below.