House Democrats early Saturday narrowly approved President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill, overcoming Republican opposition and accusations of waste in the “emergency” package.
The American Rescue Plan Act passed 219 to 212 just before 2 a.m., garnering not one Republican vote.
Two Democrats, Jared Golden of Maine and Kurt Schrader of Oregon, voted against the measure, which gives $1,400 stimulus checks to adults earning $75,000 or less a year.
Republicans have complained that the act was packed with pork unrelated to the pandemic, adding to the national debt and potentially spurring inflation.
But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had proclaimed at an evening press conference that “this is a spectacular piece of legislation.”
Republicans unsuccessfully proposed removing $140 million for an underground rail line connecting the San Francisco area, which Pelosi represents, to Silicon Valley. A motion failed to reallocate those funds to mental health grants for children that suffered from the pandemic.
The bill includes $1,400 stimulus checks for adults earning up to $75,000 per year, with smaller checks for higher earners and nothing for people who make more than $100,000. For each dependent child, the bill authorizes an extra $1,400 payment.
For parents, it also authorizes a $3,600 annual tax credit per child under age 6 and $3,000 per child up to age 17. Those funds also are phased out for earners over $75,000 or joint filers above $150,000.
A family of four earning less than $150,000 could bank more than $14,000 from the bill, according to an analysis from CNBC.
Other provisions include $350 billion for state and local governments. New York City is expected to receive about $5.6 billion if the bill passes. The state government would get about $12.7 billion, according to estimates released by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY).
The bill contains $129 billion for K-12 schools, but the Congressional Budget Office estimates that about 95 percent won’t be spent in 2021, in part because funds approved for schools last year haven’t been spent.
The bill includes $75 billion for vaccination, testing and other pandemic medical supplies. And it adds $7.2 billion to the Paycheck Protection Program, which gives small businesses forgivable loans for payroll and overhead. The PPP program was replenished in December with $484 billion in new funds.
It authorizes through August a $400-per-week federal unemployment insurance subsidy.
The bill also has a minimum wage hike to $15 per hour, which won’t be allowed in the Senate version of the bill — meaning the House must ratify the bill twice before it reaches Biden’s desk.
The White House and Democrats in Congress argued that the bill could be considered bipartisan, even without much Republican support on Capitol Hill.
Rep. Sean Maloney (D-NY) said, “It’s important not to miss the broad bipartisan support for this package as soon as you step out of the Republican caucus room.”
“It’s not just the Republican caucus that matters — it is the millions of Republican voters who have said they support this legislation, 75 percent of the American public,” Maloney said before the vote.
But House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said that the bill was largely unnecessary, pointing to an estimated $40 billion flowing to California’s government, despite the state recently reporting a $10 billion budget surplus.
“95 percent of the funding in this bill isn’t even scheduled to be spent for another year, creating more uncertainty for families,” McCarthy said on Friday.
“And in fact, less than 9 percent of the bill will be used to fund public health.”
Democrats intend to send the bill to Biden for his signature by mid-March when a $300 weekly unemployment supplement expires. The bill can pass the evenly divided Senate with a bare majority and no Republican votes under special budget reconciliation rules that bypass the ordinary 60-vote supermajority required for bills to pass.