House Passes $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Bill, Biden Will Sign It Into Law On Friday

Topline

The House of Representatives passed President Biden’s sweeping $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan in a 220-211 vote on Wednesday, sending the wildly popular rescue package past its final hurdle in Congress and to Biden’s desk for signature on Friday. 

Key Facts

The package includes billions of dollars worth of direct aid for struggling Americans, including a third round of stimulus checks in the amount of $1,400, another tranche of enhanced federal unemployment benefits of $300 per week through September 6, a major expansion of the child tax credit, tax relief for canceled student loan debt and billions of dollars for rental and food assistance.

The legislation will also authorize hundreds of billions of dollars in federal spending to combat the coronavirus and offset its economic toll through vaccine distribution and testing and aid for hospitals, state and local governments, schools and small businesses.

Democrats are celebrating the bill as one of the most consequential anti-poverty efforts in recent history, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called it “a remarkable, historic, transformative piece of legislation” during a Tuesday press briefing. 

Republicans largely oppose the package and say it is too expensive given the pace of economic recovery.

Under the leadership of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in the Senate and Pelosi in the House, Democrats used a special legislative process called budget reconciliation to move the bill through Congress over the objections of the Republican Party.

Crucial Quote

“For weeks now, an overwhelming percentage of Americans–Democrats, Independents, and Republicans–have made it clear they support the American Rescue Plan,” Biden said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon. “Today, with final passage in the House of Representatives, their voice has been heard.”

Chief Critic 

“House Democrats have abandoned any pretense of unity,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said during floor debate on Tuesday, who added that the $1.9 trillion package represents a “missed opportunity for Congress to focus on the real needs of the American people.” The GOP has consistently criticized Democrats for using the reconciliation process to advance legislation Republicans oppose, and many Republican lawmakers have characterized the move as a betrayal of Biden’s campaign commitments to unity and bipartisanship.

Surprising Fact

Just one Democrat voted with Republicans against the package: Rep. Jared Golden of Maine.

Big Number

6.5%. That’s how fast the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development expects the U.S. economy to grow this year, up from a 3.4% contraction in 2020, thanks in part to the massive federal spending that the American Rescue Plan will authorize.

What We Don’t Know

An earlier version of the bill included a provision to raise the national minimum wage to $15 per hour over the next five years—a major priority for President Biden and progressive Democrats. The wage hike was removed after a Senate advisor ruled that it could not be included in the legislation under reconciliation rules, which require that every part of the new law have a significant impact on the federal budget. 

Key Background

The federal government has now enacted six separate coronavirus relief bills. The first two in March 2020 provided funding for virus testing, small businesses loans, expanded unemployment and paid sick leave, and tax credits during the early days of the pandemic. Then came the $2.2 trillion CARES Act later that month—the largest relief bill in American history—which authorized the first round of $1,200 stimulus checks and the first tranche of enhanced federal unemployment insurance at $600 per week and set up the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses and a number of other major relief programs. The CARES Act was almost immediately followed by a $484 billion “interim” bill that replenished the PPP after the popular program exhausted its initial funding just two weeks after it launched. The fifth relief bill was worth $900 billion and was signed into law by President Trump just after Christmas last year after a months-long stalemate among lawmakers in Washington. It re-upped a number of key CARES Act benefits including the PPP and emergency unemployment programs for self-employed individuals and gig workers.

What To Watch For

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden plans to sign the American Rescue plan into law on Friday afternoon. After that, Biden and Democrats will turn their attention to another massive spending bill, this time focused on infrastructure, manufacturing and green energy.

Further Reading

Unlike Trump, Biden Won’t Sign Name On $1,400 Stimulus Checks (Forbes)

Pelosi Says Covid Relief Bill May Be More Impactful Than Affordable Care Act (Forbes)

Biden’s $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Bill Looks Certain As It Heads To House For Final Vote (Forbes)

Senate Passes Biden’s $1.9 Trillion Covid-19 Relief Bill: $1,400 Stimulus Checks, $300 Weekly Unemployment, Child Tax Credit And More (Forbes)

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