President Joe Biden had his first legislative win, having the House narrowly pass his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill in a 219-212 vote. No Republicans voted for the bill, and the only Democrats to vote against it were Jared Golden (D-Maine) and Kurt Shrader (D-Ore.)
Republicans have backed coronavirus spending under President Trump, but out of their 286 proposed amendments to Biden’s “American Rescue Plan,” only two were accepted by Democrats. Republicans argued against a subway near Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco district, claiming that less than nine percent of the spending would go directly towards fighting the virus and that the money allocated to schools would not be delivered in a timely and efficient manner.
“We’re holding our kids back; this bill will actually delay reopening of schools, and 95% of the school money in this bill can’t even be spent till 2022,” minority whip Steve Scalise (R-La,) said.
Although Democrats wanted a $15 minimum wage included in the bill and tried to push it through by reconciliation, nonpartisan parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough denied the effort by progressives, which would have let the bill pass in the Senate by a simple majority rather than the 60 votes that are needed.
Some Democrats thought a provision penalizing larger companies who do not pay their employees a minimum of $15 an hour would be a good compromise to add to the bill, which Republicans thought was a bad idea because it would increase unemployment and hurt businesses.
“This is clearly a partisan plan, that clearly is the wrong plan, at the wrong time, for all the wrong reasons,” said Jason Smith (R-Mo.)
“Tonight House Democrats snapped that bipartisan streak. They jammed through a bill that even liberal economists and editorial boards say is not well-targeted to this stage of the fight,” Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.,)said. “More than a third of its spending, including more than 90% of the K-12 school funding, would not even go out this fiscal year.”
“After Republicans led five bipartisan bills last year, Democrats have chosen the polar opposite. When Senate Republicans went to the White House to suggest cooperation, President Biden’s team said no thanks,” McConnell added. “The White House Chief of Staff admits this liberal wish-list is ‘the most progressive domestic legislation in a generation.’ So much for common sense and common ground.’”
President Biden was satisfied with the bill’s outcome passing the House and stressed the urgency and importance of having the bill passed. “If we act now, decisively, quickly, and boldly, we can finally get ahead of this virus. We can finally get our economy moving again, and the people of this country have suffered far too much for too long,” Biden said Saturday after the bill cleared the House. “We need to relieve that suffering.”
The bill will now go to the Senate, where progressives will still try to maneuver a $15 minimum wage increase into the package. “We will not rest until we pass the $15 minimum wage … If it doesn’t prevail because of Senate rules, we will persist. But we will not stop until we very soon pass the $15 minimum wage,” Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.