The House of Representatives is poised to give final approval to Joe Biden’s comprehensive $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief and stimulus plan, a giant aid package that the president has said is critical to getting the United States out of the picture. the pandemic and revive its ailing economy.
If the House passes on Wednesday, as Democratic leaders hope, the first major legislative initiative of the Biden presidency will expedite assistance to families struggling with a year-long public health crisis and provide the most generous expansion of aid to Low-income Americans in a Generation.
It will send out-of-pocket payments of up to $ 1,400 to most Americans, expand aid to state, local, and tribal governments, provide federal grants for those struggling to pay for health insurance, housing, and food, and provide money to boost distribution and Covid-19 vaccine testing and to reopen schools safely.
Economists predict that, as one of the largest emergency rescue packages in US history, the American Rescue Plan (ARP) will accelerate economic recovery, driving growth to levels not seen in decades and dramatically slowing the number of people living in poverty.
According to one estimate, the ARP could cut child poverty by up to half, by expanding a tax credit for families with children that many Democrats want permanent.
House Democrats, who have a slim majority, were confident the measure would pass Wednesday morning, despite changes made in the Senate that threatened to alienate some progressives.
New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said he was “110% sure” of success. Once approved by the House, the bill will be sent to Biden for his signature.
The Senate passed the bill on Saturday in a 50-49 vote, with Democrats overcoming unified Republican opposition and a last-minute objection from Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a member of his own party.
The package presented to the House on Wednesday was narrower than Biden’s initial proposal, which included progressive priorities later removed or reduced to appease moderates like Manchin, who echoed Republicans with concerns that the aid infusion would be too big in an economy showing signs of rebirth.
A provision to increase the federal minimum wage to $ 15 an hour was deemed inadmissible under a budget process that Democrats used to bypass Republican opposition.
The version approved by the Senate strengthens eligibility for stimulus controls and restructures a proposal for unemployment benefits that Biden hoped to increase to $ 400 a week. Under the new plan, unemployment benefits will remain at $ 300 per week, but will run through early September, instead of August. The first $ 10,200 of supplements starting in 2020 will be tax-free.
Although disappointed with some of the amendments, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, called them “relatively minor concessions” and said the overall package remained “truly progressive and bold.”
Republicans say the plan is excessive and does not fit the economic and public health outlook as more Americans are vaccinated and states mobilize to reopen businesses and schools. They have also rekindled concerns that the package will grow the national debt, concerns that were pushed aside under Donald Trump.
“We know for a fact that it includes provisions that are not specific, they are not temporary, they are not related to Covid and it did not have to be that way,” said Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney, president of the House Republican Conference. . “We could have had a bill that was a fraction of the cost of it, it could have gotten the approval and support of both parties.”
The extraordinary price is just shy of the $ 2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill enacted by Donald Trump at the start of the pandemic last March. It will be the sixth spending bill that Congress has passed to address the devastation caused by the twin public health and economic crises, and it is poised to be the first to pass without the support of the two parties despite the promise of Biden’s campaign to work with the Republicans.
However, the lack of consensus in Washington masks its popularity with voters across the political spectrum and local and state officials from both parties. Buoyed by polls showing broad public support for the bill, Biden and Democrats have argued that the plan is bipartisan.
Final passage of the bill will come a day before Biden delivers his first primetime speech on Thursday, marking the one-year anniversary after the introduction of extensive public health measures to try to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus. It has killed nearly 525,000 Americans and hit the economy.
Although vaccine distribution is rising dramatically and the economy shows some signs of improvement, Democrats say the recovery is precarious and uneven, and that low-income Americans still need help. Millions of Americans remain unemployed, and the poorest are the hardest hit.
“This not only brings us to the other side of this crisis, but it really begins to heal the wounds that this crisis has caused,” said Steny Hoyer, House Democratic Majority Leader.
After Biden signs the bill, he and other top officials will continue to promote the plan to the American public, as part of a push by the new administration to ensure that Democrats receive credit for an economic recovery ahead of the US congressional elections. mid-term 2022.
“We certainly recognize that we cannot just sign a bill,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday. “We will have to do some work and use our best voices, including the president, vice president and others, to communicate the benefits of this package to the American people.”
Unlike its predecessor, Biden’s signature will not appear on the memo line of stimulus checks sent to Americans, Psaki said. “This is not about him.” “It’s about the American people getting relief.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism