- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 9, 2021

The House cleared an initial procedural hurdle Tuesday on President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, with a final vote on the bill expected Wednesday.

The House voted 219-210 to set up the rules for debating the Senate-passed version of the bill, which was approved over the weekend.

Democrats didn’t bother to rein in their glee as they took a pre-vote victory lap.

“I’m so excited - I just can’t hide it,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.

“This is the Biden American Rescue Plan,” Mrs. Pelosi said. “This legislation is a reflection of his values.”

Congressional Republicans dismissed the plan as a costly boondoggle, saying Democrats packed it with items unrelated to the pandemic and that much of the money, like for reopening schools, won’t go out the door before October.

“We could have had a bill that was a fraction of the cost of this one that could have gotten bipartisan approval and support,” said House GOP Conference Chair Liz Cheney, Wyoming Republican. “But the speaker decided to go in another direction.”

Unlike the House version, the Senate bill does not include an increase in the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, which the Senate parliamentarian ruled out of bounds.

The Senate also trimmed an increase in additional unemployment benefits to $300 per week, down from $400 per week in the House version.

Lawmakers had set a self-imposed deadline of March 14, when the $300-per-week boost in unemployment from an earlier package is due to expire.

The Senate-passed package also includes direct payments of up to $1,400 for an estimated 158.5 million Americans, $350 billion for states and localities, and $170 billion for K-12 schools and colleges, among other items.

The package will likely make its way to Mr. Biden’s desk without a single yes vote from a Republican in the House or Senate.

The White House nevertheless insists it has “bipartisan” support because of public polling and support from state and local Republican leaders.

“This is bipartisan legislation,” said House Majority Whip James Clyburn, South Carolina Democrat. “It may not satisfy the partisans on both sides of the Capitol, but it satisfies Republicans.”

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