The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has hailed the massive $1.9tn Covid relief bill as “historic” and “transformative” as the House stood poised to give the legislation final approval with a vote on Wednesday morning.
Joe Biden, who will mark a year since the pandemic brought shutdowns across the nation with a primetime speech on Thursday, has said he will sign the bill as soon as it lands on his desk.
The House vote on the bill, which includes checks for most American households, comes after the Senate passed a modestly reworked version of the package on Saturday and will clinch Biden’s most significant early legislative achievement.
“It’s a remarkable, historic, transformative piece of legislation, which goes a very long way to crushing the virus and solving our economic crisis,” Pelosi said during a press conference with senior Democrats on Tuesday afternoon, who took turns extolling what they said was the historic nature of the legislation and its impact on reducing poverty in America. “I’m so excited, I just can’t hide it,” she added.
Several Democratic leaders compared it to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, saying the plan would not only “crush” the virus and the economic fallout but would look forward to tackle longstanding racial and gender inequalities in the economy.
Smiling under her mask, Pelosi expressed full confidence that Democrats had the votes to pass the bill.
Asked about possible defections from progressive members disappointed that the Senate had narrowed a version of the bill, initially proposed by Biden and passed by the House, Pelosi shook her head and said “no” repeatedly. The bill would head to Biden’s desk after the vote on Wednesday, she said.
Besides the fresh round of stimulus checks, the bill also extends emergency jobless benefits to early September, instead of 14 March. It spends huge amounts on Covid-19 vaccines, testing and treatments, while also aiding state and local governments and schools, assisting small businesses and providing major expansions of tax breaks and programs for lower- and middle-income families.
Progressives suffered setbacks, especially the Senate’s removal of a gradual minimum wage increase to $15 hourly by 2025. But the measure carries so many Democratic priorities that final passage was not in doubt, despite the party’s narrow 10-vote House majority.
Meanwhile a hefty majority of Americans – 70% – say they are in favor of the coronavirus relief package. Only a third of Americans said the legislation is too costly, according to a poll from Pew research.
Biden has said he will not be attaching his signature to the $1,400 relief checks that are expected to be mailed soon, a break with his predecessor who last year had “President Donald J Trump” printed on the economic impact payments approved by Congress.
The next round of paper checks will bear the signature of a career official at the treasury department’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service, the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said at a Tuesday briefing.
Psaki said the goal was to get the payments out quickly instead of branding them as coming from Biden.
“This is not about him, this is about the American people getting relief,” Psaki said.