10th March, 2021
Just after the US House of Representatives passed the $1.9trillion COVID-19 relief bill on Wednesday, President Joe Biden tweeted to Americans: “Help is here”.
The bill, which is now going to Biden for his signature, is one of the largest economic stimulus measures in U.S. history.
Anddd for Biden, it gave him his first major victory in office. The White House said he plans to sign the bill on Friday.
The measure provides $400 billion for $1,400 direct payments to most Americans, $350 billion in aid to state and local governments, an expansion of the child tax credit and increased funding for vaccine distribution. Forecasters expect it to supercharge the U.S. economic recovery.
Approval by a 220-211 vote in the Democratic-controlled chamber came with zero Republican support after weeks of partisan debate and wrangling in Congress.
Democrats described the legislation as a critical response to a pandemic that has killed more than 528,000 people and thrown millions out of work.
“This is a historic day. It is the beginning of the end of the great COVID depression,” Democratic Representative Jan Schakowsky said.
Republicans said the measure was too costly and was packed with wasteful progressive priorities. They said the worst phase of the largest public health crisis in a century has largely passed and the economy is headed toward a rebound.
“It’s the wrong plan at the wrong time for so many wrong reasons,” Republican Representative Jason Smith said.
Democrats were eager to get the final bill to Biden’s desk for his signature before current enhanced federal unemployment benefits expire on March 14.
The House rejected an effort by Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene to delay proceedings by asking for an adjournment – something she has attempted four times since taking office in January.
The House voted 235-149 to plow ahead, with 40 Republicans joining Democrats in rejecting Greene’s effort.
Although many Republicans supported coronavirus relief under former President Donald Trump’s administration, no Republican lawmaker voted for the bill in the House or Senate.
But the bill is popular with the public.
A Reuters/Ipsos national opinion poll, conducted March 8-9, showed that 70% of Americans support the plan, including majorities of Democrats and Republicans. Among Republicans, five out of 10 say they support the plan, while nine out of 10 Democrats supported it.
The legislation could have high stakes for both parties. If it succeeds in giving the economy a major boost, it also could improve Democrats’ political fortunes as they attempt to hold onto their slim majorities in Congress going into the 2022 midterm elections.
“We think it will have significant consequences for the American people, economically, politically and even going to their faith in government,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said after the vote.
Only one House Democrat, Jared Golden of Maine, voted against the package, saying the high cost endangered the recovery.