The House of Representatives voted mostly along party lines Friday to approve a budget plan that will help Congress pass the $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus relief package proposed by President Joe Biden. The Senate passed the package in the early morning hours Friday, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tying vote. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House version of the bill could be passed within two weeks as Democrats embrace the idea of passing the package with little to no Republican support in either chamber.
The House's vote Friday was 219-209, reports The Washington Post. As Bloomberg explains, the resolution was on the 2021 fiscal year and lets House and Senate committees start their detailed work on Biden's proposal. Since the Senate made tweaks to the bill the House passed on Wednesday, the House will have to vote again. Senate Democrats pulled three amendments - one on sending stimulus checks to illegal immigrants, another on the Keystone XL pipeline, and another on fracking - that could change some minds in the House. The Senate also added an amendment supporting the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.
"On Monday, we will begin working on the specifics of the bill," Pelosi told reporters after a meeting with Biden and the Democratic House committee chairs, reports CNBC. Although there could be some moderate Democrats in the House who may shirk at the bill due to its cost, House Majority Whip James Clyburn said they do have the votes to pass it. The Democrats only have a 10-seat majority in the House.
The quick passage of the bill in the Senate this week shows an increasing willingness from Washington Democrats to pass the legislation without any Republican support. Biden had long hoped he could get some Republican support in the Senate, but that became increasingly unlikely when Sens. Susan Collins, Mitt Romney, and others proposed a much smaller package. Democrats would have needed 10 Republicans to support the bill in the Senate. Since that was not going to happen, Democrats agreed to use reconciliation to pass the bill with a simple majority. Although the Senate is split 50-50, Democrats are considered the majority due to Harris' tie-breaking vote.
On Friday, Biden said negotiations with Republicans would only draw out the process and force Americans in need to wait even longer. "Are we going to say to millions of Americans who are out of work -- many out of work for six months or longer, who have been scared by this economic and public health crisis-- 'Don't worry, hang on, things are going to get better?'" Biden said. "That's the Republican answer right now. I can't in good conscience do that. Too many people in the nation have already suffered for too long."
The $1.9 trillion package includes a $1,400 check for low and moderate-income Americans, extended federal unemployment benefits, and an additional $160 billion to help the public response to the pandemic. More funds were earmarked for vaccine distribution and increased testing as well. The package also includes a $30 billion rent and utility assistance fund and $170 billion for schools.