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House Sets Stage for Swift Action on $1.9 Trillion COVID Relief Bill

It passed a budget bill yesterday on a party-line 218-212 vote

The House passed a budget bill yesterday on a party-line 218-212 vote that sets the stage for quick passage of President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

The budget bill directs committees to begin drafting budget reconciliation legislation. The Senate is expected to take action on the same legislation this week after a “vote-a-rama,” during which Republicans are likely to bring up a slew of amendments likely to fail. The budget reconciliation process will allow Senate Democrats to avoid a filibuster and pass Biden's COVID-19 bill with 51 votes.

Biden has repeatedly courted Republican support for his COVID relief bill, but there is mounting evidence he will not compromise on the $1.9 trillion price tag or major components of the package. Biden's package includes $1,400 stimulus checks, an increase and extension of unemployment benefits that are set to expire in mid-March, an increase in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, roughly $350 billion for cities and states, about $130 billion for schools and $160 billion for vaccines, testing and other aid to the nation's healthcare system.

Biden met Monday with a group of 10 Senate Republicans who proposed a much narrower $618 billion relief plan and, while the meeting was cordial, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement afterwards that Biden had pointed out deficiencies in the Republican proposal and said his own plan "was carefully designed to meet the stakes of this moment, and any changes in it cannot leave the nation short of its pressing needs."

Republicans have criticized Democrats’ moves to pass Biden's COVID package through reconciliation at the same time that Biden calls for unity and bipartisanship.

"Democrats in Washington are setting up a partisan process to have the vice president cast the decisive vote in the Senate on an array of radical policies," said Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO), ranking member of the House Budget Committee. "Their plans are to try to use this pandemic to seize more government control of your life."

Democrats countered that the nation's faltering economy and continued battle to control the COVID-19 virus demand immediate, big investments.

"We cannot afford to slow down our response to these urgent crises while Republicans decide if they want to help [Americans] or not," said House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-KY).

This article was provided to OSAE by ASAE's Power of A and Inroads.

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