House Passes $1.9 Trillion COVID Relief Package
WASHINGTON – The House passed a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package in the wee hours of Saturday morning, helping President Joe Biden clear the first hurdle in passing an economic stimulus bill that includes $1,400 in direct payments to U.S. households, an extension of federal supplements to unemployment insurances and $350 billion in aid for state and local governments.
The vote was 219 to 212 with two Democrats opposing the bill and no Republicans crossing the aisle to back it.
On Saturday morning, President Biden urged the Senate to take “quick action” on the bill, saying there’s “no time to waste.”
“If we act now decisively, quickly and boldly, we can finally get ahead of this virus,” he said. “We can finally get our economy moving again. And the people of this country have suffered far too much for too long. We need to relieve that suffering.”
Biden has made passing the stimulus package his top legislative priority for his first 100 days in office.
But Republicans in both the House and the Senate have refused to back the plan arguing its far more spending than is necessary at this point.
In fact, the bill passed by the House Saturday is the second-largest economic relief bill in U.S. history, dwarfed only by the $2.2 trillion Cares Act passed last year.
A key sticking point as the bill heads to the Senate is a provision of the House bill that would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour over a five-year period.
On Thursday, the Senate parliamentarian ruled the provision would not be pushed through using budget reconciliation, the mechanism Senate Democrats are hoping to use to pass the bill by a simple majority vote.
With a 50-50 split in the Senate, Vice President Kamala Harris is expected to cast the tiebreaking vote, presuming no Republicans vote in favor of the relief bill and no Democrats fail to support it.
Democrats have set themselves a deadline of mid-March to get the bill to Biden’s desk so he can sign it into law.
On Friday evening, hours ahead of the vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the bill would “saves lives and saves the livelihoods of the American people.”
But House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy dismissed such rhetoric.
“This isn’t a relief bill. It takes care of Democrats’ political allies, while it fails to deliver for American families,” the California Republican said. “We already know what is the best stimulus plan out there: it is to fully reopen our economy.”
What they are saying about House passage of the Coronavirus Relief Bill:
President Joe Biden
(In the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Saturday morning)
Good morning, folks. For a few weeks now, an overwhelming percentage of the American public has made it clear that they support my American Rescue Plan. And the House of Representatives took the first step toward making it a reality.
And I want to thank — and I called her just a few moments ago — Nancy Pelosi for her extraordinary — Speaker Pelosi — for her extraordinary leadership and all those who supported our plan.
And with their vote, we are one step closer to vaccinating the nation. We are one step closer to putting $1,400 in the pockets of Americans. We are one step closer to extending unemployment benefits for millions of Americans who are shortly going to lose them.
We’re one step closer to helping millions of Americans feed their families and keep a roof over their head. We’re one step closer to getting our kids safely back in school. And we’re one step closer to getting state and local governments the money they need to prevent massive layoffs for essential workers.
Now — now the bill moves to the United States Senate where I hope it will receive quick action. I have — we have no time to waste.
If we act now — decisively, quickly, and boldly — we can finally get ahead of this virus. We can finally get our economy moving again.
And the people of this country have suffered far too much for too long. We need to relieve that suffering. The American Rescue Plan does just that: It relieves the suffering. And it’s time to act.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
(On the House floor early Saturday morning)
As the distinguished gentleman from Kentucky acknowledged in his opening sentence, this week, on Monday, our nation marked the loss of over 500,000 Americans to the coronavirus, a horrific human toll of staggering proportions, an incomprehensible sadness. Every life lost is a profound tragedy that we mourn and that breaks America’s heart, and we pray for their families. Each day, this pandemic reaches into our communities, devastating families’ health, financial security and well-being.
The numbers speak volumes: 18 million Americans are on unemployment, 24 million people are going hungry, 12 million, Mr. Speaker, 12 million children living in households with food insecurity, and that is a conservative number. Up to 40 million people cannot pay their rent and fear eviction.
The writer George Bernard Shaw said, ‘It is the mark of a truly intelligent person to be moved by statistics.’ And indeed, we are moved, emotionally and intellectually, because these statistics are not just numbers, they are the lives and livelihoods of our neighbors, family members, friends and loved ones. We are moved to act swiftly to put an end to this pandemic and to stem the suffering felt by so many.
The time for decisive action is long overdue. President Biden’s American Rescue Plan is that decisive action. Tonight, Congress is taking action to crush the virus with a national vaccination program, robust testing, tracing and treatment, more PPE and combating health disparities affecting communities of color disproportionately.
We are putting money in workers’ pockets. Eighteen million Americans will receive Unemployment Insurance. Forty million Americans will receive nutrition assistance. Twenty-seven million children will receive help through an expanded Child Tax Credit. Fifteen million low-wage workers will receive Earned Income Tax Credit, and millions and millions of more – other people, in addition, will receive the direct payment.
We are putting children safely back in schools with a $130 billion investment in re-opening schools and making up for lost learning and to do so safely. And we are putting people back into jobs by supporting our most vulnerable small businesses, particularly those owned by minorities and women, and protecting the jobs of our heroes, health care workers, transit, sanitation, food workers, police and fire, our first responders, our teachers, our teachers, our teachers and more.
Economists overwhelmingly support this targeted action. Earlier this month, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell reported that the real unemployment rate is ten percent, matching the depths of the worst point of the Great Recession. As he said, ‘We are still very far from a strong labor market whose benefits are broadly shared.’
Therefore, if we do not enact this package, the results could be catastrophic: depriving workers and the economy of 4 million fewer jobs to come back, taking a year longer to return to full [employment] and four years longer until real GDP recovers to a pre-pandemic status, confronting the entire cohort of young people with lower lifetime earnings, reducing the wages and job prospects of parents forced to stay at home.
This legislation is transformative, lifting 12 million Americans out of poverty and generating $1.25 for every dollar spent. And a great source of pride for us all, because this legislation will cut child poverty in half.
As we advance this legislation, we will continue our Fight For 15, which would give 27 million Americans a raise. When I was Speaker in 2007, Congressional Democrats raised the minimum wage in the first 100 hours of our new Majority. It took a little longer for the Senate to get it done in the Spring. That was fourteen years ago.
An increase in the minimum wage is a financial necessity for our families, a great stimulus for our economy and a moral imperative for our country. With that view, it is therefore inevitable to all of us that the $15 minimum wage will be achieved, even if it is inconceivable to some. It is inevitable to us and we will work diligently to shorten the distance between the inevitable and the inconceivable.
The $7.25 minimum wage that exists now is in many instances, in many instances, an exploitation of the American worker. And it is a cost to taxpayers because the minimum wage workers need food and housing assistance, and many are on Medicaid. This is corporate welfare. This is a subsidy for business to pay a low wage. We want work to be respected, we respect the dignity of work. We will seek a solution consistent with Senate rules and we will do so soon.
The American people are demanding the bold action contained in the American Rescue Plan. Over 75 percent of Americans support this package and want it passed and enacted – including 60 percent of Republicans in the country. Families, workers, business leaders, mayors and local leaders, health and faith-based organization are all calling for immediate action.
More than a year ago – more than a year into this pandemic and economic crisis, the American people need to know that their government is there for them and, as President Biden has said, ‘Help Is On The Way.’
And with that, I urge a strong and bipartisan vote for the American Rescue Plan, so we can continue our work to save the lives and the livelihood of the American people. With that, I urge an aye vote and yield back the balance of my time.
House Majority Whip James Clyburn
“Our country has lost more than half a million lives to this deadly virus. We must bring this pandemic to an end. The American Rescue Plan Act will provide the resources necessary to vaccinate Americans as swiftly as possible, including many in underserved communities.
This legislation also invests in testing, contact tracing, public health workers, and the alleviation of health disparities, including through community health centers. Schools will be given the resources they need to reopen safely, while funds for internet connectivity will narrow the homework gap.
“Ending this public health crisis is the most important step we can take to end the economic crisis. As we work to do so, the American Rescue Plan Act extends a financial lifeline to American families, businesses, and communities.
“Direct payments, unemployment assistance, a $15 minimum wage, and benefits to help Americans afford food, housing, health care, utilities, and child care will provide relief to families and the businesses they patronize. The smallest and hardest-hit businesses and non-profit organizations will be helped through additional loans and grants. State and local governments will receive the resources they need to keep Americans employed providing essential services to their communities.
“The coronavirus pandemic has been a national tragedy we will never forget. After nearly a year of unimaginable harm, the American Rescue Plan will allow our country to heal and put us on the path to recovery and renewal.”
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal
“As our nation grieves the collective tragedies of the last year, it is our responsibility to protect lives and livelihoods. Tonight, we showed the American people that the help they’ve been calling for is finally on the way.
“Building on President Biden’s blueprint, Ways and Means Committee Democrats met this moment by leading with proven policies that will fight the public health and economic crises. We acted decisively and boldly to deliver relief to keep those who are struggling afloat and to spread hope that better days lie ahead.
“The Ways and Means Committee proudly contributed an aggressive course of action. We targeted another round of direct assistance and expanded critical refundable tax credits for low- and middle- income workers and families. We ensured that the millions of jobless Americans won’t lose their pandemic-related unemployment benefits and can afford life’s necessities until the economy rebounds. Affordable, accessible health coverage is a necessity in a pandemic. That’s why we included provisions to contain costs, particularly for unemployed workers.
“The time for action is now. Economists from the left, right, and center agree that failing to do enough is much riskier than doing too much. There are no shortcuts to defeating this virus, and this package recognizes the challenges that lie ahead. But all of this work will only matter if the Senate can move quickly to bring this legislation to President Biden’s desk. This is our moment, and together, we will recover from this virus and set the American people on a new path.”
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr.
“Tonight, the House passed an American Rescue Plan that struggling families desperately need to help stay afloat during this ongoing public health and economic crisis.
“This legislation implements a national plan to crush the COVID-19 pandemic. It provides the tools and resources we need to ramp up distribution and administration of lifesaving vaccines and testing to track and trace new hotspots before they become larger outbreaks. The bill expands access to quality, affordable health care coverage to millions of Americans who lack access to care in the midst of the pandemic.
“The American Rescue Plan also includes vital assistance to help families keep the lights on, the heat working, the water running, and to expand internet connectivity to help students and teachers without home internet access.
“The House’s decisive action tonight meets the urgency of this moment and I’m hopeful we can send the American Rescue Plan to President Biden’s desk for signature soon.”
House Republican Whip Steve Scalise
(On the House floor)
“Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to this bill because we should be here tonight, Mr. Speaker, focused on real priorities of the American people. And that should be number one, reopening our schools now. Mr. Speaker, we should be focused on helping our small businesses who are dying on the vine. Mr. Speaker, we should be focused on helping put more vaccination shots in the arms of Americans. Unfortunately, that’s not what this bill does.
“We’ve seen you talking about over a trillion dollars that’s still available from previous bipartisan bills. That’s out there. There is tens of billions of dollars to reopen schools that’s available today that’s not being used. We had amendments to say any new money in this bill for schools is tied to reopening schools. Do you know that every Democrat voted against that amendment? In fact, if you look at some of the spending in this bill that has nothing to do with COVID – $350 billion to bail out failed states. California gets over $40 billion in this bill when they just announced they had a $10 billion surplus.
“In fact, California is going to be getting a subway for the Bay Area – $112 million. Mr. Speaker, I say we defund [the Bay Area Tunnel] and give that money to those students right now who are being held back from going to school who have mental health issues. That’s what [Rep. Ashley Hinson’s] amendment will do. The motion to recommit actually focuses on helping kids. We are holding our kids back. This bill will actually delay reopening of schools.
“Ninety-Five percent of the school money in this bill can’t even be spent till 2022. Our kids can’t wait. We ought to be focused on helping families, on helping businesses, on reopening schools, and more vaccines. If this bill did those things, they wouldn’t be bringing it up at midnight on a Friday night.
“This bill ought to be in full public view. People, you don’t pass this bill to find out what’s in it. We need to defeat this bill and help families. I yield back the balance of my time.
Rules Committee Chairman James McGovern
“M. Speaker, since the emergence of the coronavirus, our nation has been in a perpetual state of mourning. The number of Americans killed by this pandemic is nearly equal to one death a minute, every minute, for a year. Every corner of society has been impacted:
“More than 18 million Americans are receiving unemployment benefits; nearly 24 million Americans are going hungry with roughly 12 million children living in households with food insecurity; up to 40 million Americans cannot afford to pay rent; eight of ten minority-owned businesses are on the brink of closure; and I could go on and on, M. Speaker.
“This is a time to act and act boldly. That’s why we began work on the American Rescue Plan nearly one month ago. Nine committees have now marked up portions of the bill, spending more than 100 hours debating more than 400 amendments. We have acted swiftly, M. Speaker, but we have also acted deliberately – guided by the reality that the American people need us to act urgently.
“More vaccines need to get to more people, so this plan will set up community vaccination sites nationwide. Our schools need to safely reopen, so this bill will deliver new resources to help them do so. Working families need more immediate relief, so the American Rescue Plan also provides an additional $1,400 per person in direct assistance. That will bring the total amount of direct assistance recently provided to $2,000 per person.
“This bill also extends unemployment benefits and boosts the federal minimum wage so that 27 million workers get a raise. Sadly, the Senate rules will cause this provision to be removed when it’s considered there. I want the American people to know this: we will not stop fighting to make a minimum wage increase a reality. No one who works full time in the richest nation on the planet should live in poverty.
“There’s also nutrition assistance included to combat the growing hunger crisis and support for local communities on the frontlines of this health emergency. There’s aid here for small businesses, expanded PPP eligibility, and resources for our first responders, teachers, transit workers, and more.
“This is what it looks like when Congress acts in a way that matches the scale of the problems we face.
“Nearly 7 in 10 Americans support this plan. More than 150 leaders of our nation’s top businesses came out this week in support of it. Republican officeholders like the governor of West Virginia have encouraged Congress to go big here, and local Republican leaders like the Mayor of Miami support our president’s proposal.
“This is a bipartisan response to the COVID crisis.
“We all joined together on the Capitol steps on Tuesday to mark the 500,000 lives lost to coronavirus in this country. We didn’t stand as Democrats and Republicans, but as one Congress. We mourn the empty seats at dinner tables, and the missed graduations and weddings the same way – not from our partisan corners, but as one American family.
“Through our grief, we should respond here the same way – united in our purpose to defeat this pandemic and rebuild our nation. I urge all my colleagues to stand together and with the American people in support of this plan.
“Let’s act big, let’s act bold, and let’s crush this virus.”
Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va.
“Virginia is making notable progress against this deadly virus, and our healthcare workers are fighting around the clock to save lives — but our communities remain in the midst of a once-in-a-generation pandemic, and there is still so much at stake. In the coming weeks and months, strong and coordinated vaccination efforts are the key to reopening our businesses, getting our children fully back to school, and protecting the most vulnerable among us.
“This emergency package provides billions of dollars in additional funding for vaccines, so that we can accelerate our current battle against COVID-19. I’ve heard about the pressing need for this funding directly from local health officials in Virginia. This legislation also prevents critical programs — like unemployment insurance and rental assistance — from expiring next month, so that our Virginia neighbors who rely on these programs are not left without shelter or left to starve.
Additionally, this package includes new funding to support small businesses and restaurants. Based on many personal conversations with these employers, I know the true pain they’ve felt over the past year — and I know many in Virginia are still in need of a helping hand to keep their employees on the payroll, their operations open, and their lifelong dreams alive.
“Tonight’s vote is a necessary step to come to the immediate aid of our communities and to prevent lasting damage to our economy. I will be closely following the Senate’s progress in the days ahead as Congress works to move this package quickly to the President’s desk. Inaction — or the refusal to compromise — is unacceptable in the face of this lingering crisis.”
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill.
“During our yearlong struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress has rallied together for the good of the country and provided real relief to the American people through bipartisan legislation. We did this successfully five times with an understanding that this funding was temporary and specifically targeted to the address the problems at hand.
“We currently have over $1 TRILLION of unspent COVID relief money sitting idle. And now, House Democrats are playing politics with a hyper-partisan bill, tacking on billions of tax-payer dollars to fund their progressive wish-lists. The bill brought before the House today is the single most expensive bill in history. This is reckless and no way to legislate.
“The American people need help paying their bills, not a train to Silicone Valley for Speaker Pelosi. When only 10% of the bill is going to public health funding and for vaccines, you know there’s a problem calling it a “COVID-relief” measure. It’s a disappointment and a failure to the American people. They deserve better than what this Democrat-led Congress is producing.”