House Democrats powered a skeleton budget through the House on Wednesday, sidelining Republicans and carving out enough space to approve President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus wish list.
Brushing aside warnings of economists and watchdogs who said the spending far outstrips the need, Democrats said going too big was a better risk than falling short and leaving the economy struggling for years.
“Our country desperately needs this relief,” said Rep. John Yarmuth, chair of the House Budget Committee.
The budget was approved on a 218-212 vote, with two Democrats joining the GOP in opposition.
The bill creates the outlines for Congress to go to work on Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion package, including another round of unemployment benefits and $1,400 stimulus payments to millions of Americans. The bill also includes more than $400 billion for coronavirus-related efforts like vaccine distribution, and $350 billion in bailout money for states and localities who have complained of a pandemic budget crunch.
Democrats said the cash infusion is needed to prevent those at the lower economic rungs from slipping further amid the pandemic.
But Rep. Dave Schweikert, Arizona Republican, said that the spending worked out to a cost of $350,000 for each new job it would produce.
“Is that compassion or is that lunacy?” he wondered.
The House vote will be matched later this week by a vote in the Senate. Should the Senate approve any amendments, the House would have to re-vote on that package later this week.
These votes are relatively easy. They amount to an approval of new borrowing, but don’t get into any of the details of how the money will be disbursed.
Once the budget clears both chambers, committees will go to work writing the nuts and bolts of a spending plan, which then must be stitched together in a “reconciliation” package, which will need final approval.
That’s when issues like the price tag, the state and local bailout, and the $15-an-hour federal minimum wage will be tested among moderate Democrats.