On the morning of Saturday, February 27, 2020, the House passed “The American Rescue Plan,” otherwise known as the Biden COVID stimulus bill, by a vote of 219-212.
It passed with unanimous Republican opposition and near-unanimous Democratic support, with only two Democrats—Kurt Schrader of Oregon and Jared Golden of Maine—voting against it.
Despite an extraordinary wealth of spending called for in the bill, there is much in it that Democrats may not be happy about.
What’s in the Bill?
Firstly, the bill calls for a total of $1.9 trillion in spending. If passed by the Senate in its current form, it would boost weekly unemployment payments by $400 until August. It also provides a total of $350 billion in COVID relief funds for states, local governments and Native American tribes.
Also, there would be $200 billion set aside for schools and a further $50 billion for COVID vaccination, testing and contact tracing.
More famously, the bill provides $1,400 payments to individuals making less than $75,000 per year and $2,800 for couples making less than $150,000 per year jointly. Many regard this payment as a blatant betrayal of Biden’s earlier promise to provide $2,000 stimulus checks. Even though the $1,400 payment would come on top of $600 individual payments that have already been sent out, many insist that this is still misleading.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, unsurprisingly, lauded the bill as a “spectacular piece of legislation” while House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and other Republicans blasted it for its extravagant spending.
McCarthy pointed out that “the amount of money [in the bill] that actually goes to funding public health is less than nine percent” and called it “the single most expensive bill in history.”
McCarthy insisted that instead of spending so much money, what was instead needed to bring the country back to normal after COVID was for “blue state governors to lift their non-science-based lockdowns.” He further called for schools and businesses to be reopened around the country.
Furthermore, the bill includes a provision to hike up the federally mandated minimum wage to $15 per hour. The Senate, however, has signaled that it will remove that provision in order to be able to pass the bill in a veto-proof way, and the White House has indicated that Biden would be willing to sign the bill without that provision as well.
Senator Bernie Sanders has proposed a workaround whereby large companies not willing to pay workers at least $15 per hour would be exempted from various tax deductions, though it’s not clear whether Biden will agree to this.