Politics House to vote on Biden's $1.9 trillion relief bill
Biden heads out of D.C. for town hall and first major presidential trip
President Biden took his message to Milwaukee, attempting to move past former president Donald Trump’s impeachment and sell his own agenda. But even as he tries a return to normalcy, Biden’s events are heavily restricted by the pandemic. Speaking at a CNN town hall, Biden pledged that any American who wants a vaccine will have access to one by the end of July. He said he wanted many elementary and middle schools to be open five days a week by the end of April. And he said that "by next Christmas, I think we'll be in a very different circumstance.
The House will vote on President Biden's $1.9 trillion relief package on Friday, including a provision raising the federal minimum wage which faces significant opposition in the Senate.
The bill, called the American Rescue Plan, includes $1,400 in direct checks for Americans making under $75,000, a $400 per week supplemental unemployment bonus, money for vaccine distribution, and funding to aid schools and state and local governments. Although previous coronavirus relief bills have passed with bipartisan support, the bill is expected to pass in the House along party lines, as Republicans have criticized the high price tag and the inclusion of provisions which they see as unrelated to the crisis.
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Let’s come out and say it: An absence of incendiary tweets doesn’t make a young presidency boring when the administration is facing a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, the resulting economic devastation, the climate crisis and a host of other problems. A running seven-day average of deaths from the virus stood at 2,455. Whatever the assessment of whether Biden is meeting those challenges, these are not boring times. On the substance, the Delaware Democrat probably disappointed progressives on several fronts.
The vote in the House comes days after the U.S. passed the grim milestone of from the coronavirus. Millions have lost their jobs due to the economic fallout, and supplemental unemployment assistance established by Congress late last year is set to expire in mid-March.
The American Rescue Plan is broadly popular among Americans, earning support from Republican voters as well as Democrats and independents. Aby Morning Consult/Politico released on Thursday shows that 76% of Americans support the package, including 60% of Republicans.
"The need is great. The opportunity is there," Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters on Thursday.
The bill set to pass in the House also includes a provision raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025, even though the that the bill cannot include an increase of the federal minimum wage if Congress uses the budget reconciliation process.
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Congressional Democrats opted to use the procedural maneuver known as budget reconciliation to pass the bill, allowing it to be approved by only a simple majority in the Senate. Most legislation requires 60 votes in the Senate to advance, so the budget reconciliation process allows Democrats — who hold a 50-seat majority — to pass the bill without any Republican votes.
There are strict rules for utilizing the budget reconciliation process, such as the "Byrd rule," which requires that all provisions in the bill be budget-related, and must not increase the federal deficit after a 10-year budget window. Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough ruled that the minimum wage hike did not fit the parameters for budget reconciliation.
In a statement on Thursday, Pelosi said that MacDonough's decision was "disappointing."
"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 said. The federal minimum wage of $7.25 has not been increased since 2009.
AOC says Democrats should overrule or FIRE the Senate parliamentarian
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said Democrats should overrule or fire the Senate parliamentarian after Elizabeth MacDonough ruled the $15 minimum wage cannot be included in COVID relief package.'I think all options should be on the table,' she told reporters on Capitol Hill when asked about the matter.
However, it's unclear that the provision raising the minimum wage would have been included in the final bill even if MacDonough had ruled that it was possible to include a wage hike in the bill. At least two Democrats, Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, had expressed concerns about raising the minimum wage. Without support from all 50 Democrats in the Senate, the bill's prospects would be doomed.
Senator Bernie Sanders, the chair of the Senate Budget Committee and an outspoken advocate for raising the minimum wage, said Thursday that he would introduce an amendment to the package to "take tax deductions away from large, profitable corporations that don't pay workers at least $15 an hour and to provide small businesses with the incentives they need to raise wages."
"That amendment must be included in this reconciliation bill," Sanders said.
Once the Senate considers its version of the bill, progressives in the House could threaten to withhold their support for the final package unless some kind of minimum wage hike is included. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez suggested on Thursday that progressive members of the House should pressure their own party in ways similar to conservative Democrats in the Senate.
"There are progressive Democrats that have that muscle in the House," Ocasio-Cortez said. "If we as a party decide to stand down on our promise of elevating the minimum wage, I think that's extraordinarily spurious and it's something that as a party we could have a further conversation about how to fight for it."
Raising the minimum wage is widely popular, with a 2019 poll by theshowing that 67% of Americans support raising the minimum wage to $15. It even has support in some red states, as demonstrated by a ballot initiative in Florida to increase the minimum wage increase to $15 by 2026 which passed with support from more than 60% of voters in the last election.
Senate Democrats announce deal on unemployment insurance, allowing Biden bill to move forward .
The Senate will debate and vote on amendments to the proposed $1.9 trillion stimulus starting Friday, a process that is expected to bring fiery exchanges but ultimate passage of President Biden's top legislative priority.The agreement would extend the existing $300 weekly unemployment benefit through Sept. 6, as well as provide tax relief on benefits for households making under $150,000.