The House of Representatives voted along near-party lines on Wednesday to approve US President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill.
The 220-211 vote marks a win for Democrats generally and Biden. Only one Democrat joined with all Republicans in opposing the package that will see most Americans receive $1,400 in direct payments, expands the child tax credit up to $3,600, and boosts funds for state and local government reeling from the pandemic.
In addition, the American Rescue Plan, as the bill is formally known, increases food assistance programs through September and helps low-income households pay for rent.
The Senate on Saturday approved the sweeping spending package, which now heads to Biden’s desk to be signed in to law, likely on Friday.
Biden hailed the bill’s passage, saying that with it the voices of the “overwhelming percentage of Americans” have now “been heard.”
“This legislation is about giving the backbone of this nation – the essential workers, the working people who built this country, the people who keep this country going – a fighting chance,” he said in a statement issued within moments of the House vote.
Democrats have argued the legislation is badly needed as the US continues to grapple with an unemployment rate of about 6.2%, nearly double the pre-pandemic level of 3.5%, and as state and local governments wrestle with budget blows prompted by the pandemic.
Republicans, however, have assailed the package as a Democratic wish-list that needlessly adds to government debt.
“This bill is simply a guise. COVID relief? No,” congressman Tom Rice said on the House floor. “The economy is quickly coming back to pre-pandemic levels right now, and yet my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have found every reason to rush through costly, unnecessary, progressive priorities that my constituents didn’t ask for.”
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sharply rejected Republican arguments, saying “it’s typical that they vote no and take the dough.”
“This bill has bipartisan support across the country, not only among the general public,” but among elected officials who are “eagerly awaiting the passage of this bill,” she said. “They know at their level, what a difference it will make in the lives of their constituents: the American people.”
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