Following weeks of debate and several major alterations, President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package received a final vote in the House of Representatives on Wednesday morning. The bill passed 220-211, as Democrat Jared Golden of Maine joined all Republicans in voting against the bill.
As expected, every single Republican representative in the House voted against the bill, while nearly every Democrat voted in favor of the American Rescue Plan, as was the case when the bill was sent to the Senate last month. All that remains is for the bill to arrive on President Biden’s desk, where he will sign it into law.
The American Rescue Plan that Biden will sign this month features $1,400 stimulus checks for individuals earning up to $75,000 and couples earning up to $150,000, an extension of the $300 weekly increase to jobless benefits through September 6th, $350 billion to assist state and local governments, a Child Tax Credit of up to $3,600 per child, billions of dollars to help schools to reopen safely, and billions more for vaccine development and distribution.
Initially, $1,400 stimulus checks were set to phase out from $75,000 to $100,000 for individuals and from $150,000 to $200,000 for married couples, but the Senate lowered the threshold considerably, cutting off any individuals that make over $80,000 and any couples that make over $160,000. The Senate also removed a provision from the bill that would have increased the federal minimum wage to $15 over the course of the next several years, and lowered the boost to unemployment assistance from $400 a week down to $300 a week — the same as the last relief bill.
All of these compromises were hotly contested within the Democratic Party, as moderate Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) made it clear from the outset that they were not willing to consider a minimum wage hike in the budget reconciliation bill. Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough ended the argument immediately by ruling that a minimum wage hike wouldn’t be allowed in the reconciliation process, and rather than fight the official or attempt to ram the provision through anyway, Democrats opted to move forward without it.
Many Democrats are distressed by the changes that were made to the bill between its initial passage in the House and its passage in the Senate, but the priority now is to get the bill onto President Biden’s desk as quickly as possible. Unemployment benefits of the previous relief package begin to expire on March 14th, and according to a recent report from The Century Foundation, “11.4 million workers will lose their unemployment benefits between March 14 and April 11 of this year” unless Congress moves swiftly and Biden signs the bill right away.
Finally, as for the timing of the $1,400 checks, the last round began hitting bank accounts of eligible Americans within three days of President Trump signing the $900 billion relief package into law. For this round, the Biden administration is doing everything it can to ensure the checks go out just as quickly.