No Republicans back $1.9T COVID-19 relief bill
Not a single Republican in the House or Senate voted for the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package now awaiting President Biden’s signature, marking the first measure to address the pandemic that made its way through Congress entirely along party lines.
House Democrats cleared the legislation by a 220-211 vote on Wednesday, after the Senate passed it in a 50-49 vote on Saturday.
Republicans lined up in opposition against the legislation by arguing it is overly partisan and filled with unnecessary provisions that wouldn’t help defeat the pandemic.
“This should be a targeted relief bill, but instead, this is an attempt by Speaker Pelosi to further promote her socialist agenda,” said House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), referring to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
By contrast, past pandemic relief measures enacted last year after protracted negotiations between the Democratic-House, GOP Senate and the Trump administration passed with bipartisan support. But now that Democrats control both chambers of Congress and the presidency, they opted to craft a relief measure without GOP input.
“If you are a member of the swamp, you do pretty well under this bill,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). “I believe the American public wants something different. I believe they were proud of the fact we did something here that was bipartisan.”
Polling shows that the legislation is broadly popular with voters, particularly the expanded tax credits and $1,400 stimulus checks.
A Pew Research poll released on Tuesday found 70 percent overall favored the bill, while a CNN survey out Wednesday found that 61 percent support the relief measure.
But the support dropped sharply among Republicans in both surveys, while Democrats and independents largely favored the legislation.
Only one centrist Democrat, Rep. Jared Golden (Maine), defected from his party during Wednesday’s vote.
Golden said he believed the Senate went too far in some areas to scale back the bill, specifically the unemployment insurance payments and minimum wage increase, while not going far enough in other areas such as the stimulus checks.
“While the Senate made modest changes to the legislation, some of those changes undermined parts of the bill I do support, and others were insufficient to address my concerns with the overall size and scope of the bill,” Golden said.
Republicans sought a variety of amendments to the bill in the House and Senate, including requiring K-12 schools to reopen for in-person classroom instruction in order to access funding and eliminating $135 million for the National Endowment for the Arts that’s intended to help arts organizations that have faced layoffs and budget cuts during the pandemic.
Senate Republicans briefly secured the adoption of an amendment with the support of centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to keep the weekly supplemental unemployment insurance payments at $300, rather than increasing them to $400 as under the original House bill.
But Senate Democrats replaced the GOP amendment hours later with a deal of their own so that the weekly unemployment insurance payments are at $300 and last through Sept. 6. In addition, the first $10,200 of unemployment compensation will be tax-free for households with incomes of up to $150,000.
Another major provision of the bill provides $1,400 stimulus checks for individuals making $75,000 or less with phased-out partial payments for those earning up to $80,000. Under the two previous rounds of pandemic relief brokered by Democrats and the Trump administration, the maximum check amounts were $1,200 and $600.
Democrats will also be expanding the child tax credit to $3,000 per child and $3,600 for children under the age of six.
The legislation further includes funding for vaccine distribution and COVID-19 testing efforts, as well as to help entities that have lost money due to pandemic restrictions.
That includes $30 billion for local subway and bus systems, $8 billion for airports and $28.6 billion for the restaurant industry.
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