House votes to send $1.9 trillion COVID relief package to Biden’s desk

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The House voted 220-211 on Wednesday to approve the Senate’s revised version of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, sending the bill to Biden’s desk to be signed.

Why it matters: The passage of the American Rescue Plan is the first — and potentially defining — legislative victory of Biden’s presidency, marking a key milestone in his pledge to steer the U.S. out of the coronavirus crisis.

What they’re saying: “This legislation is about giving the backbone of this nation — the essential workers, the working people who built this country, the people who keep this country going — a fighting chance,” Biden said in a statement following the bill’s passage.

The big picture: The package is being touted by Democrats as one of the most consequential anti-poverty bills of the modern era, with the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center projecting that it will boost incomesfor the poorest 20% of Americans by 20%.

  • Current unemployment benefits expire for millions of Americans in less than a week, a deadline that pushed Congress to act quickly on one of the largest spending packages in U.S. history.
  • Polling shows the bill enjoys widespread bipartisan support within the general public, though some experts worry that a massive injection of stimulus into the recovering economy might result in inflation.
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How we got here: The massive spending package was passed via budget reconciliation, a process that allows the Senate to approve legislation with a simple majority vote, rather than the usual 60-vote threshold.

  • Had Democrats not clinched control of the Senate by winning the two runoff elections in Georgia in January, the size of the package — if one existed at all — would have been far smaller.
  • The bill passed in the Senate last week 50-49 after a marathon of late-night amendments, which only began after Republicans forced the clerk to read the entire 628-page bill out loud — a process that took 11 hours.
  • The House vote fell almost exactly along party lines, with one Democrat — Rep. Jared Golden of Maine — voting against it.

Details: The bill approves $1,400 stimulus payments for individuals making up to $75,000 and couples making $150,000. It will also extend weekly $300 unemployment insurance until Sept. 6. Other highlights include:

  • An increased child tax credit in 2021 of $3,600 for children up to age 5 and up to $3,000 for ages 6–17.
  • $128.6 billion to help K-12 schools reopen.
  • $19 billion in emergency rental assistance.
  • $25 billion to help restaurants.
  • $46 billion for coronavirus testing and tracing.
  • $5.2 billion to support the research and development of vaccines.
  • $7.25 billion for Paycheck Protection Program loans.

What to watch: The White House says Biden will sign the bill on Friday and that stimulus checks will begin going out before the end of the month.

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