The House of Representatives is on track to approve President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion pandemic aid package, a major step toward enacting the first legislative priority of the new administration as the devastating fallout from the spread of Covid-19 has left Americans in dire need of further relief.
Due to House procedures, a vote is now not expected to take place until late in the evening Friday or early in the morning on Saturday.
Once the bill passes the House it would next go to the Senate.
Making the effort more complicated, however, is that the Senate is expected to have to strip out a provision in the legislation increasing the federal minimum wage after the Senate parliamentarian ruled against including the increase under the procedure known as reconciliation, which Senate Democrats are using to pass the bill with a simple majority vote. The bill would then have to go back to the House for a separate vote before it could go to Biden to be signed into law.
The package advanced by House Democrats also includes direct aid to small businesses, $1,400 direct checks to Americans making less than $75,000 annually, an increase in the child tax credit, direct funding to state and local governments, funding for schools and more money for vaccine distribution.
It is expected to pass on a party-line vote as House Republicans have urged their members to vote against the package and are seeking to limit defections.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters that “one or two” Democrats could vote against the Covid relief bill, but is confident the bill will pass.
“I expect to have overwhelming Democratic support for it,” Hoyer said. “Expecting unanimity all the time is a little tougher.”
Republicans have argued that the legislation overreaches and serves as a liberal wish list of agenda items and complain that they have been locked out of the process for crafting the measure. Democrats counter that they are willing to work with Republicans, but will not water down the plan and say they have a mandate to take sweeping action to address the pandemic now that they control Congress and the White House.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will have a narrow margin to pass the bill, unable to lose more than five votes. But a key factor expected to buoy the bill’s chances is the fact that many members across the ideological spectrum do not have an appetite to torpedo the new administration’s first major piece of legislation.
Pelosi called the decision “disappointing,” adding, “House Democrats believe that the minimum wage hike is necessary. Therefore, this provision will remain in the American Rescue Plan on the Floor tomorrow.”
Pelosi insisted at a press conference Friday evening that the House will pass the wage increase, regardless of what happens in the Senate.
“As a matter of practice, I don’t get involved in the rules of the United States Senate,” Pelosi said, adding, “But as a matter of values, I can just say, we will not rest until we pass the $15 minimum wage … If it doesn’t prevail because of Senate rules we will persist. But we will not stop until we very soon pass the $15 minimum wage.”
This story has been updated with additional developments Friday.