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Congress passes $1.9T Covid relief bill, with $1,400 checks, in major win for Biden


MARCH 10, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The House gave final passage Wednesday to a $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package that will deliver $1,400 stimulus checks to millions of Americans, extend enhanced unemployment benefits and boost funding to ramp up vaccine distribution and reopen schools.

The vote of 220 to 211 sends the legislation to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature, securing him his first legislative victory since taking office less than two months ago.

Biden will sign the bill on Friday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

The Senate passed the bill in a 50-49 vote Saturday after making changes to the original version passed by the House, including lowering unemployment benefits and reducing the number of people who will receive a stimulus check.

“This is a critical moment in our country’s history,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said before the vote, mentioning the more than 500,000 Americans who have died from the virus and the millions who have lost their jobs. “Today, we have a real opportunity for change.”

The bill passed with near-unanimous Democratic support and without any Republican votes, a sharp contrast that raises the political stakes of the measure.

“I am immensely proud that we will soon send this bill to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law,” said House Budget Chair John Yarmuth, D-Ky. “We have acted with the urgency that this pandemic demands.”

The legislation will grant $1,400 direct payments to individuals making under $75,000 and $2,800 to married couples who make less than $150,000. Individuals making up to $80,000 and joint filers up to $160,000 will get some money but not the full amount. The direct cash includes up to $1,400 per dependent, including adult dependents.

The bill provides $300-a-week in enhanced jobless benefits through Sept. 6. And it would expand the annual child tax credit to $3,600 for children up to age 5 and $3,000 for children aged 6 to 17.

In the morning, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., sought to throw a wrench into the process by making a motion to adjourn the chamber, calling it a “massive woke progressive” bill that should be stopped. But the House rejected her motion and carried on.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., called the bill “costly, corrupt, and liberal.”

“Now, even the Biden White House agrees it is very liberal,” he said. “They called it the ‘most progressive piece of legislation in history.'”

Asked on Tuesday whether the package would be the final relief bill needed, Pelosi told reporters, “You’re just going to have to ask the virus — if it stops mutating, if it stops spreading and therefore mutating, then this will be.”

“What is interesting about this virus is that it is resourceful,” she added. “It mutates. It has variants. And so too must we be resourceful and resilient in how we deal with it. We will be on top of it.”

But in a major disappointment to progressives, a provision to raise the minimum wage to $15-an-hour was removed after the Senate parliamentarian said it violated the rules for the process of bypassing the 60-vote threshold. It also faced some Democratic defections.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer promised on Wednesday that the Covid relief package will make “a big difference” in the lives of Americans, and quickly.

“It does so much good for so many people. And one of our missions is to show people that government can actually make their lives better,” the New York Democrat told NBC News.

The vote on final passage comes after weeks of negotiations between the White House and lawmakers, which involved Republicans attempting to slow down the process and some hiccups that arose within the Democratic caucus when Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia considered teaming up with Republicans to upend an intra-party deal involving jobless benefits.

In addition to direct payments and child tax credits, the bill would provide $14 billion for vaccine distribution, $49 billion for Covid-19 testing, contact tracing and personal protective equipment. It also includes $125 billion for K-12 schools and nearly $40 billion for high education. It would provide $39 billion in child care grants, $25 billion in rental assistance and $30 billion for public transit as well.

After the Senate passed the measure Saturday, Biden said it was “one more giant step forward” in delivering on his promise that “help is on the way,” touting the direct financial assistance to Americans.

“That means the mortgage can get paid. That means the child can stay in community college. That means maintaining the health insurance you have,” he said. “It’s going to make a big difference in so many of lives in this country.”

Courtesy/Source: NBC News