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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: 694320

Reported Deaths: 8142
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1423771859
Ramsey59270950
Dakota52926503
Anoka48822485
Washington31123312
Stearns25308241
St. Louis20783337
Scott19966146
Wright18874163
Olmsted16191112
Sherburne13779105
Carver1232552
Clay930196
Rice9242125
Blue Earth885747
Crow Wing8008102
Kandiyohi751491
Chisago729258
Otter Tail684095
Benton6616102
Mower573938
Winona562752
Goodhue558981
Douglas546484
Itasca529272
Beltrami527572
Steele516521
McLeod516164
Isanti499070
Morrison475763
Nobles454850
Becker449960
Polk442175
Freeborn436040
Lyon401054
Carlton396960
Nicollet386448
Pine381626
Mille Lacs361860
Brown355244
Cass352636
Le Sueur346530
Todd330334
Meeker312649
Waseca295725
Martin270533
Wabasha24874
Dodge24755
Hubbard240441
Roseau237424
Houston209816
Redwood205142
Renville203148
Fillmore202210
Pennington194922
Wadena190527
Faribault183725
Sibley179610
Cottonwood178824
Chippewa173139
Kanabec167329
Aitkin158038
Watonwan156811
Rock142419
Jackson135812
Pope13418
Yellow Medicine127720
Pipestone125826
Koochiching123719
Swift118719
Murray117210
Stevens113711
Clearwater107118
Marshall106719
Lake93221
Wilkin90714
Lac qui Parle89224
Mahnomen7239
Big Stone7034
Grant6918
Norman6749
Lincoln6694
Kittson53922
Unassigned51193
Red Lake5017
Traverse4345
Lake of the Woods4194
Cook2150

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 439050

Reported Deaths: 6420
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk69441683
Linn26618363
Scott23312265
Black Hawk19397338
Woodbury17483233
Johnson1698692
Dubuque14775221
Pottawattamie13369186
Dallas13048102
Story1211448
Warren707893
Webster6479103
Cerro Gordo6370105
Clinton635898
Des Moines618084
Muscatine5985109
Marshall586981
Sioux547676
Jasper532076
Lee529084
Wapello5230128
Buena Vista479442
Marion464086
Plymouth442185
Henry351341
Jones341159
Bremer331365
Washington330454
Crawford326844
Carroll326553
Benton325756
Boone318636
Mahaska282754
Dickinson276547
Kossuth257471
Clay255629
Jackson253844
Tama246073
Hardin244547
Buchanan244238
Delaware240143
Cedar228025
Fayette227945
Page225724
Wright221741
Winneshiek219237
Hamilton216752
Harrison205476
Madison199920
Clayton199758
Floyd195742
Butler191936
Poweshiek188837
Mills188225
Iowa185927
Cherokee184740
Allamakee181152
Jefferson178238
Lyon178041
Calhoun172213
Hancock170336
Winnebago170131
Cass164356
Louisa161651
Grundy161335
Appanoose158149
Shelby156539
Emmet153241
Franklin152224
Humboldt151626
Union149937
Sac147922
Mitchell146143
Guthrie142132
Chickasaw141618
Palo Alto134527
Clarke130226
Montgomery127940
Keokuk121332
Monroe118733
Howard118422
Ida109838
Davis105025
Greene103012
Pocahontas102623
Monona99034
Lucas98523
Adair97734
Worth9558
Osceola84717
Decatur76710
Fremont76511
Van Buren75221
Taylor73412
Wayne66323
Ringgold63027
Audubon60114
Unassigned5300
Adams4254
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