NATIONAL NEWS

House Passes $1.9T Pandemic Relief Bill, Sends It To Senate

Feb 26, 2021, 10:43 PM | Updated: Feb 27, 2021, 12:17 am
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during a news conference about COVID-19 relief legi...
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during a news conference about COVID-19 relief legislation on February 26, 2021 in Washington, DC. The House is set to vote Friday evening on President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House approved a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill early Saturday in a win for President Joe Biden, even as top Democrats tried assuring agitated progressives that they’d revive their derailed drive to boost the minimum wage.

The new president’s vision for flushing cash to individuals, businesses, states and cities battered by COVID-19 passed on a near party-line 219-212 vote. That ships the massive measure 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 the still-faltering economy and the half-million American lives lost demanded quick, decisive action. GOP lawmakers, they said, were out of step with a public that polling shows 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.”

That divide is making the fight a showdown over which party 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 progressives 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.

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., a progressive leader.

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.

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.

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.

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.

___

Associated Press writers Mary Clare Jalonick and Kevin Freking in Washington contributed to this report.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

In this aerial view, members of law enforcement investigate a tractor trailer on June 27, 2022 in S...
ERIC GAY and ELLIOT SPAGAT, Associated Press

46 dead, 16 hospitalized after trailer of migrants found

Officials said 46 people have been found dead and 16 others were taken to hospitals with heat-related illnesses after a tractor-trailer rig containing suspected migrants was found Monday on a remote back road in southwest San Antonio.
1 day ago
Los Angeles police are asking for the public's assistance in identifying a suspect who is seen on s...
Natasha Chen and Aya Elamroussi, CNN

Police arrest suspect in an unprovoked assault of an Asian man in Los Angeles

Los Angeles police have arrested a suspect in the assault of an Asian man last week, in an attack caught on surveillance video, police said.
1 day ago
Hundreds of protesters marched in Provo for abortion rights....
KEVIN McGILL, AMY FORLITI and GEOFF MULVIHILL Associated Press

Supreme Court’s abortion ruling sets off new court fights

Judges have temporarily blocked abortion bans in Louisiana and Utah, while a federal court in South Carolina said a law sharply restricting the procedure would take effect there immediately.
1 day ago
FILE: Rudy Giuliani (Photo by Joshua Roberts/Getty Images)...
KAREN MATTHEWS Associated Press

Heckler charged with assault after clapping Rudy Giuliani on the back

A heckler who clapped former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani on the back at a campaign event has been arrested on an assault charge.
1 day ago
Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the American Freedom Tour at the Austin Convention...
ERIC TUCKER Associated Press

Lawyer who advised Trump says federal agents seized phone

A lawyer who aided former President Donald Trump’s efforts in the 2020 election says that federal agents have seized his cell phone.
1 day ago
Jennifer Crumbley and her husband James Crumbley, parents of the alleged teen Oxford High School sh...
COREY WILLIAMS, Associated Press

School shooting suspect may testify at parents’ trial

Lawyers representing the parents of a Michigan teenager charged in a shooting at Oxford High School that left four of his fellow students dead say they plan to call him to testify at the couple’s trial.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...
1-800-GOT-JUNK?

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
House Passes $1.9T Pandemic Relief Bill, Sends It To Senate