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$1.9 trillion COVID relief bill passes U.S. House on near party line vote

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., meets with reporters before the House votes to pass a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package, during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., meets with reporters before the House votes to pass a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package, during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Uncertain future in the U.S. Senate amid disputes over minimum wage hike and aid to states.

Posted: Feb 27, 2021 10:12 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House approved a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill that was championed by President Joe Biden, the first step in providing another dose of aid to a weary nation as the measure now moves to a tense Senate.

The new president’s vision for infusing cash across a struggling economy to individuals, businesses, schools, states and cities battered by COVID-19 passed on a near party-line 219-212 vote early Saturday. That ships the bill to the Senate, where Democrats seem bent on resuscitating their minimum wage push and fights could erupt over state aid and other issues.

Democrats said that mass unemployment and the half-million American lives lost are causes for quick, decisive action. GOP lawmakers, they said, were out of step with a public that polling finds largely views the bill favorably.

“I am a happy camper tonight," Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said Friday. “This is what America needs. Republicans, you ought to be a part of this. But if you're not, we're going without you."

Republicans said the bill was too expensive and said too few education dollars would be spent quickly to immediately reopen schools. They said it was laden with gifts to Democratic constituencies like labor unions and funneled money to Democratic-run states they suggested didn't need it because their budgets had bounced back.

“To my colleagues who say this bill is bold, I say it's bloated," said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. “To those who say it's urgent, I say it's unfocused. To those who say it's popular, I say it is entirely partisan.”

The overall relief bill would provide $1,400 payments to individuals, extend emergency unemployment benefits through August and increase tax credits for children and federal subsidies for health insurance.

It also provides billions for schools and colleges, state and local governments, COVID-19 vaccines and testing, renters, food producers and struggling industries like airlines, restaurants, bars and concert venues.

Democratic Representative Angie Craig of Iowa voted for the bill and issued this statement:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a heartbreaking number of lives and livelihoods. Health experts as well as economists are in strong consensus that we must take bold action to accelerate the distribution of our vaccines and support those individuals and businesses impacted by the economic crisis. The American Rescue Plan takes bold action to address the needs of the American people and I’m proud to advance this legislation to the U.S. Senate.”

Moderate Democratic Reps. Jared Golden of Maine and Kurt Schrader of Oregon were the only two lawmakers to cross party lines. That sharp partisan divide is making the fight a showdown over whom voters will reward for heaping more federal spending to combat the coronavirus and revive the economy atop the $4 trillion approved last year.

The battle is also emerging as an early test of Biden's ability to hold together his party's fragile congressional majorities — just 10 votes in the House and an evenly divided 50-50 Senate.

At the same time, Democrats were trying to figure out how to assuage liberals who lost their top priority in a jarring Senate setback Thursday.

That chamber's nonpartisan parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, said Senate rules require that a federal minimum wage increase would have to be dropped from the COVID-19 bill, leaving the proposal on life support. The measure would gradually lift that minimum to $15 hourly by 2025, doubling the current $7.25 floor in effect since 2009.

Hoping to revive the effort in some form, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is considering adding a provision to the Senate version of the COVID-19 relief bill that would penalize large companies that don't pay workers at least $15 an hour, said a senior Democratic aide who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal conversations.

That was in line with ideas floated Thursday night by Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., a chief sponsor of the $15 plan, and Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., to boost taxes on corporations that don't hit certain minimum wage targets.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., offered encouragement, too, calling a minimum wage increase “a financial necessity for our families, a great stimulus for our economy and a moral imperative for our country.” She said the House would “absolutely" approve a final version of the relief bill because of its widespread benefits, even if it lacked progressives’ treasured goal.

Republican Representative Jim Hagedorn of Minnesota voted against the bill and issued this statement:

“For all their talk of unity and bipartisanship, Democrats abused a process to ram through a partisan payoff to the left. In the past year, Republicans and Democrats have worked in bipartisan fashion to pass five COVID-19 relief measures. But this bill is not about ending the pandemic, restarting our economy, or reopening schools across the nation."

“Democrats’ bailout package would inflate the already massive federal deficit by nearly $2 trillion, despite $1 trillion in unspent funds remaining from previous bipartisan measures. In fact, they’ll only dedicate nine percent of the new money to combating COVID-19 through public health efforts. The Biden Administration and congressional Democrats have constructed this disastrous legislation with the intent of funneling money to poorly managed blue states, rescuing union pension plans, propping up Obamacare, and funding ‘arts and humanities’ grants as well as a transit tunnel to benefit Nancy Pelosi’s district."

“What the American people need right now is targeted, commonsense relief that will help distribute and administer vaccines efficiently, safely reopen schools, and get small businesses and their employees back on their feet. Those are the priorities that I will continue to strive for with my Republican colleagues. I sincerely hope that my friends across the aisle will live up to their previous promises and join us in those efforts.”

While Democratic leaders were eager to signal to rank-and-file progressives and liberal voters that they would not yield on the minimum wage fight, their pathway was unclear because of GOP opposition and questions over whether they had enough Democratic support.

House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal, D-Mass., sidestepped a question on taxing companies that don't boost pay, saying of Senate Democrats, “I hesitate to say anything until they decide on a strategy."

Progressives were demanding that the Senate press ahead anyway on the minimum wage increase, even if it meant changing that chamber's rules and eliminating the filibuster, a tactic that requires 60 votes for a bill to move forward.

“We’re going to have to reform the filibuster because we have to be able to deliver,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., another high-profile progressive, also said Senate rules must be changed, telling reporters that when Democrats meet with their constituents, "We can’t tell them that this didn’t get done because of an unelected parliamentarian.”

Traditionalists of both parties — including Biden, who served as a senator for 36 years — have opposed eliminating filibusters because they protect parties' interests when they are in the Senate minority. Biden said weeks ago that he didn't expect the minimum wage increase to survive the Senate's rules. Democrats narrowly hold Senate control.

Pelosi, too, seemed to shy away from dismantling Senate procedures, saying, “We will seek a solution consistent with Senate rules, and we will do so soon.”

The House COVID-19 bill includes the minimum wage increase, so the real battle over its fate will occur when the Senate debates its version over the next two weeks.

Democrats are pushing the relief measure through Congress under special rules that will let them avoid a Senate GOP filibuster, meaning that if they are united they won't need any Republican votes.

It also lets the bill move faster, a top priority for Democrats who want the bill on Biden's desk before the most recent emergency jobless benefits end on March 14.

But those same Senate rules prohibit provisions with only an “incidental” impact on the federal budget because they are chiefly driven by other policy purposes. MacDonough decided that the minimum wage provision failed that test.

Republicans oppose the $15 minimum wage target as an expense that would hurt businesses and cost jobs.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 587762

Reported Deaths: 7324
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1217771724
Ramsey50848870
Dakota45493446
Anoka41276436
Washington26615280
Stearns22077221
St. Louis17637302
Scott17137124
Wright15873139
Olmsted1316498
Sherburne1157185
Carver1041645
Clay811792
Rice7991106
Blue Earth744441
Crow Wing658688
Kandiyohi650683
Chisago589051
Otter Tail571778
Benton563697
Goodhue474972
Mower463732
Douglas463674
Winona451850
Itasca428053
McLeod420258
Morrison416260
Isanti415364
Nobles407148
Beltrami391058
Steele383915
Polk382268
Becker377950
Lyon359250
Carlton343553
Freeborn340729
Pine326222
Nicollet322743
Brown304040
Mille Lacs300352
Le Sueur288222
Todd280432
Cass269028
Meeker253740
Waseca236222
Martin229731
Roseau207519
Wabasha20473
Hubbard186341
Dodge18313
Renville178643
Redwood172636
Houston171315
Cottonwood164221
Fillmore155310
Wadena154522
Pennington153619
Chippewa151638
Faribault151119
Kanabec143224
Sibley142310
Aitkin133936
Watonwan13189
Rock127819
Jackson121811
Pipestone114726
Yellow Medicine113820
Pope10916
Murray10609
Swift104818
Stevens90211
Marshall87817
Clearwater86116
Koochiching81715
Lake80819
Wilkin80412
Lac qui Parle75022
Big Stone5984
Lincoln5773
Grant5678
Mahnomen5459
Norman5399
Unassigned48693
Kittson48422
Red Lake3957
Traverse3685
Lake of the Woods3213
Cook1590

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 365723

Reported Deaths: 5925
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk57406622
Linn20778334
Scott19903240
Black Hawk15777308
Woodbury15105228
Johnson1444083
Dubuque13347209
Dallas1114698
Pottawattamie11082168
Story1058248
Warren575088
Clinton552792
Cerro Gordo537889
Sioux513474
Webster511493
Marshall482075
Muscatine476299
Des Moines453266
Wapello4288122
Buena Vista424240
Jasper417771
Plymouth400480
Lee374255
Marion361075
Jones297357
Henry290837
Carroll285152
Bremer283360
Crawford265840
Boone263334
Benton255455
Washington253650
Dickinson247843
Mahaska229551
Jackson221142
Kossuth215264
Clay215125
Tama209171
Delaware208740
Winneshiek196834
Page192622
Buchanan190531
Cedar189223
Hardin184943
Fayette184741
Wright184236
Harrison179373
Hamilton179249
Clayton169456
Butler164634
Mills161722
Madison161419
Floyd160142
Cherokee158538
Lyon157541
Poweshiek154733
Allamakee150951
Iowa148224
Hancock147034
Winnebago141631
Cass137854
Calhoun137313
Grundy136233
Emmet134140
Jefferson132335
Shelby130537
Sac130119
Union128133
Appanoose127949
Louisa127849
Mitchell125842
Chickasaw123915
Guthrie120829
Humboldt118826
Franklin118121
Palo Alto112423
Howard104422
Montgomery103238
Clarke99824
Unassigned9770
Keokuk95531
Monroe95129
Ida90234
Adair86332
Pocahontas85322
Monona82830
Davis82524
Osceola78216
Greene77610
Lucas77123
Worth7428
Taylor65712
Fremont6229
Decatur6069
Van Buren55718
Ringgold55524
Wayne53623
Audubon50710
Adams3384
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