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House approves budget resolution for COVID-19 package

The House on Wednesday approved a budget resolution in a 218-212 vote that would allow Congress to pass a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill without Republican support.

Two Democrats, Reps. Ed CaseEdward (Ed) CaseMORE (Hawaii) and Jared Golden (Maine), voted against the measure in the otherwise party-line vote.

The Senate will also have to pass a budget resolution, and then both chambers will need to approve a budget reconciliation package that includes the COVID-19 relief deal.

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Using the rules prevents Republicans in the Senate from filibustering the package and will mean Democrats will not have to offer concessions to move the deal.

Democrats noted that Republicans could vote for the package while signaling they would not wait for them to move toward the White House position.

“There will be plenty of opportunities for my colleagues across the aisle to engage in this process and offer amendments. But we cannot afford to slow down our response to these urgent crises while Republicans decide if they want to help or not,” said House Budget Committee Chairman John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthDemocrats see political winner in tax fight McConnell knocks Kentucky Democrat over support for nixing filibuster Democrats vow to go 'bold' — with or without GOP MORE (D-Ky.).

Republicans have balked at the package so far, arguing it is too expensive given other relief measures approved by Congress and that it is poorly targeted, especially just weeks after Congress approved a $900 billion relief measure in December.

They say using the budget measures to move the bill undermines Biden’s own message of bipartisan cooperation and unity.

“What's the example here? That the unification, the bipartisanship, work-together attitude that the president called for was just empty words for the House majority,” said Rep. Jason SmithJason Thomas SmithWhite House delays release of budget plan Trump pollster: Greitens leads big in Missouri GOP Senate primary Missouri Senate candidate Eric Greitens tangles with Hugh Hewitt in testy interview MORE (R-Mo.), the top Republican on the Budget panel.

President Biden met with a group of 10 GOP senators at the White House on Monday in what both sides said was a positive meeting. But the White House indicated the $618 billion proposal offered by those Republicans is too small.

“There's agreement, universal agreement, we must go big and bold," Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerThe first Southern state legalizes marijuana — what it means nationally H.R. 1/S. 1: Democrats defend their majorities, not honest elections McCarthy asks FBI, CIA for briefing after two men on terror watchlist stopped at border MORE (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday after Biden hosted Democratic senators to discuss the state of play.

“We hope our Republican colleagues will join us in that, in that big bold program that America needs,” he added.

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Biden has signaled some flexibility on eligibility for $1,400 stimulus checks that are a part of the proposal.

He indicated that while he wanted to stick to the $1,400 figure, he’s open to targeting the checks so that wealthier households do not receive them.

“We can better target them,” Biden told House Democrats on a Wednesday call. “But I’m not going to start my administration by breaking a promise to the American people.”

The House vote may serve as an early indication of Democrats’ ability to keep their diverse caucus united. Progressives such as Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarOmar rips Bezos amid union fight: Forces workers to 'defecate in bags' Omar slams Biden admin for continuing 'the construction of Trump's xenophobic and racist wall' The Hill's Morning Report - Biden's infrastructure plan triggers definition debate MORE (D-Minn.) pushed for a larger relief package with recurring stimulus payments but still voted for the $1.9 trillion cap in the budget resolution.

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenThe first Southern state legalizes marijuana — what it means nationally A bold fix for US international taxation of corporations Democrats offer competing tax ideas on Biden infrastructure MORE (D-Ore.), who is slated to become chairman of the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday, said the Biden proposal for a weekly $300 increase in unemployment benefits was a floor, not a ceiling.

Last year, an initial $600 boost caused controversy after studies showed it pushed benefits above wages for a majority of recipients. The benefit expired in August before being renewed at $300 in the December package.

In the Senate, lawmakers are readying for a late Thursday night and Friday morning of voting on budget amendments. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHarry Reid reacts to Boehner book excerpt: 'We didn't mince words' Democrats see opportunity in GOP feud with business Biden resists calls to give hard-hit states more vaccines than others MORE (R-Ky.) has indicated that he intends to make Democrats take politically uncomfortable votes.

“We’ll be getting senators on the record about whether taxpayers should fund checks for illegal immigrants ... whether Democrats should raise taxes on small businesses in the midst of this historic crisis ... and whether generous federal funding should pour into school districts where the unions refuse to let schools open,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.

Once authorizing committees draw up legislation based on the budget’s reconciliation instructions, Republicans will have another chance to challenge aspects of the bill for so-called Byrd Rule violations.

The rule stipulates that the fast-track process cannot be used for issues that do not directly affect deficits, among other things. Democrats have recently argued that their inclusion of a $15 minimum wage bill should comply given its effects on welfare spending, but the Senate parliamentarian will have the final say.

Republicans have also indicated their dismay at Democrats advancing the budget by saying they would work to delay confirmation votes for Biden’s administration until after both the budget process and former President TrumpDonald TrumpHarry Reid reacts to Boehner book excerpt: 'We didn't mince words' Man arrested for allegedly threatening to stab undercover Asian officer in NYC Trump says GOP will take White House in 2024 in prepared speech MORE’s second impeachment trial are wrapped up.

“We're not intentionally trying to slow it down, but the Democrats have chosen the agenda, and they've chosen to do the budget resolution, so if there's a delay in nominations, it's because of their choice,” said Sen. John CornynJohn CornynOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Dakota Access pipeline to remain in operation despite calls for shutdown | Biden hopes to boost climate spending by B | White House budget proposes .4B for environmental justice 2024 GOP White House hopefuls lead opposition to Biden Cabinet Number of migrants detained at southern border reaches 15-year high: reports MORE (R-Texas).