House Approves Biden’s Stimulus Bill
New York Times: Emily Cochrane March 10, 2021
Congress gave final approval on Wednesday to President Biden’s sweeping, nearly $1.9 trillion stimulus package, as Democrats acted over unified Republican opposition to push through an emergency pandemic aid plan that included a vast expansion of the country’s social safety net.
By a vote of 220 to 211, the House passed the measure and cleared it for Mr. Biden’s signature, cementing one of the largest injections of federal aid since the Great Depression. Mr. Biden is expected to sign the bill Friday. All but one Democrat, Representative Jared Golden of Maine, voted in favor.
It would provide another round of direct payments for many Americans, an extension of federal jobless benefits and billions of dollars to distribute coronavirus vaccines and provide relief for schools, states, tribal governments and small businesses struggling during the pandemic.
The vote was the culmination of a swift push by Mr. Biden and Democrats, newly in control of both chambers of Congress and the White House, to address the toll of the pandemic and begin putting in place their broader economic agenda. It includes a set of measures that is estimated to slash poverty by a third this year and potentially cut child poverty in half, including expansions of tax credits, food aid and rental and mortgage assistance.
“With the stroke of a pen, President Biden is going to lift millions and millions of children out of poverty in this country,” Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut, said. “It is time to make a bold investment in the health and security of the American people — a watershed moment.”
While Republicans argued the plan, whose final cost was estimated at $1.856 trillion, was bloated and unaffordable, polls indicate that it has widespread support, with 70 percent of Americans favoring the package, according to a Pew Research Center poll released Wednesday.
“House Democrats have abandoned any pretense of unity,” said Representative Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California and the minority leader. “This isn’t a rescue bill, it isn’t a relief bill. It’s a laundry list of left-wing priorities that predate the pandemic.”
Mr. Biden and congressional Democrats planned an elaborate effort to promote it throughout the country, racing to claim credit for the coronavirus aid and a set of provisions they hope to make permanent in the years to come, and to punish Republicans politically for failing to support any of it.
“This bill represents a historic, historic victory for the American people,” Mr. Biden said at the White House following the bill’s approval, thanking Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House.
Final passage came less than two months after Mr. Biden took office and about a year after cities and states across the country began to shutter to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
The measure will provide $350 billion for state, local and tribal governments and $10 billion for critical state infrastructure projects; $14 billion for the distribution of a vaccine, and $130 billion to primary and secondary schools. The bill also includes $30 billion for transit agencies, $45 billion in rental, utility and mortgage assistance, and billions more for small businesses and live performance venues.
It would provide another round direct payments to American taxpayers, sending checks of up to $1,400 to individuals making $80,000 or less, single parents earning $120,000 or less and couples with household income of no more than $160,000.
Federal unemployment payments of $300 per week would be extended through Sept. 6, and up to $10,200 of jobless aid from last year would be tax-free for households with incomes below $150,000. It would also provide a benefit of $300 per child for those age 5 and younger — and $250 per child ages 6 to 17, increasing the value of the so-called child tax credit.
The legislation also contains a substantial, though temporary, expansion of health care subsidies that could slash monthly insurance payments for those purchasing coverage under the Affordable Care Act. And for six months, it would fully cover COBRA health care costs for people who have lost a job or had their hours cut and who buy coverage from their former employer.