The House of Representatives is poised to give final approval to Joe Biden’s sweeping $1.9tn coronavirus stimulus and relief plan, a giant aid package the president has said is critical for lifting the US out of the pandemic and reviving its battered economy.
If passed by the House on Wednesday, as Democratic leaders expect, the first major legislative initiative of Biden’s presidency will rush assistance to families struggling under a year-long public health crisis and provide the most generous expansion of aid to low-income Americans in a generation.
It will send direct payments of up to $1,400 to most Americans, expand aid to state, local and tribal governments, provide federal subsidies for those struggling to afford health insurance, housing and food and deliver money to boost Covid-19 vaccine distribution and testing and to safely reopen schools.
Economists predict that as one of the largest emergency rescue packages in American history, the American Rescue Plan (ARP) will accelerate economic recovery, boosting growth to levels not seen in recent decades and dramatically reducing numbers living in poverty.
According to one estimate, the ARP could cut child poverty by as much as half, through an expansion of a tax credit for families with children that many Democrats want to make permanent.
House Democrats, who hold a slim majority, were confident the measure would pass on Wednesday morning, despite changes made in the Senate that threatened to alienate some progressives.
The New York congressman Hakeem Jeffries, the House Democratic Caucus chair, said he was “110% confident” of success. Once passed by the House, the bill will be sent to Biden for signature.
The Senate passed the bill on Saturday in a 50-49 vote, Democrats overcoming unified Republican opposition and a last-minute objection by Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a member of their own party.
The package before the House on Wednesday was narrower than Biden’s initial proposal, which included progressive priorities subsequently either stripped out or scaled back to appease moderates like Manchin, who echoed Republicans with concerns that the infusion of aid was too big in an economy showing signs of revival.
A provision to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour was deemed inadmissible under a budget process Democrats used to bypass Republican opposition.
The Senate-approved version tightens eligibility for stimulus checks and restructures a proposal for unemployment benefits that Biden hoped to raise to $400 a week. Under the new plan, unemployment benefits will remain at $300 a week but will be extended through the beginning of September, rather than August. The first $10,200 of supplements from 2020 will be made tax-free.
Though disappointed with some of the amendments, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, called them “relatively minor concessions” and said the overall package remained “truly progressive and bold”.
Read more of Lauren Gambino’s report here: US House poised to approve Joe Biden’s $1.9tn Covid relief plan