WASAHINGTON, D.C. – The House of Representatives is scheduled today to vote on – and is certainly expected to pass – President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 economic relief bill, after which they will send the plan to the Senate for final approval.
Democrats in both the House and Senate plan on having the bill approved and sent to the desk of President Biden before March 14, which is when many provisions in the previous relief package passed in December are set to expire, which would impact unemployment benefits for millions of Americans.
The bill is expected to pass in the House with no issues; however, in the Senate, where Democrats currently only have a 50-50 majority – with Vice-President Kamala Harris being the tie-breaking vote – even one dissenting Democratic vote could gum up the works. It is currently unknown if any Senate Democrats have indicated if they intend to not support the bill, although a decision that prevented a $15 per hour minimum wage increase from being included in the bill could potentially cause issues with progressives.
The bill will be passed, most likely without significant GOP support, through a process known as budget reconciliation, which will allow Democrats approve budget-related legislation with a simple majority, as opposed to the 60-vote threshold that most bills normally require.
The proposed $1.9 trillion relief bill includes $1,400 direct payments to most Americans; an extension of federal unemployment benefits through the end of August, 2021, as well as a $400 per week boost to benefits; $20 billion for COVID-19 vaccination programs and $50 billion for testing; $350 billion for state and local governments; and $170 billion for schools.
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Many economists strongly support an additional round of federal relief to aid the economy in its recovery from the effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic; however, some feel that Biden’s $1.9 trillion plan may actually be too big and could result in a spike in inflation and further increase the country’s already sizable $28 trillion debt.