Stimulus update: House passes COVID-19 relief bill paving way for $1,400 checks, unemployment benefits

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday passed the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, sending $300 a week in jobless benefits to the unemployed, a $3,000 tax credit to parents and $1,400 checks to millions of Americans.

>> Read more trending news

The bill, which had no congressional Republican support, passed on a near party-line vote of 220-211. Gerald Golden, D-Maine, was the only Democrat voting against the bill. Golden voted against the bill last week when the House originally passed the legislation.

The legislation will now be sent to President Joe Biden for his signature.

In addition to direct payments to the majority of Americans, the bill will provide money to fund COVID-19 vaccines and vaccination distribution, to reopen schools and to prop up state and local governments and airlines. Those in need will get help with health insurance premiums, farmers of color will get help with outstanding USDA farm loans and federal workers will get extra paid leave if their child is enrolled in a school that isn’t back to full-time, in-classroom instruction.

The bill is one of the most expansive stimulus packages in American history with almost 70% of tax breaks in 2021 going to households earning $91,000 or less, according to the independent Tax Policy Center.

But while millions of Americans will see some form of economic help, House progressives saw several of the programs most important to their agenda fall by the wayside as the bill went through the Senate.

Senate moderates tightened eligibility for the $1,400 stimulus checks, phasing them out for individuals making more than $80,000 a year and couples making more than $150,000 and lowered the emergency unemployment payments from $400 per week to $300 weekly.

The bill was passed only four days before those benefits were scheduled to expire.

The Senate also dropped the measure to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 over a five-year period.

The proposal was removed from the legislation after the Senate parliamentarian ruled that it was not germane to the COVID-19 relief bill. The ruling came after Democrats introduced the bill under the rules of reconciliation that protected the bill from a filibuster, effectively blocking any opposition Republicans could try to mount.

On Monday, progressive House members voiced support for the bill.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington, chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said before Wednesday’s vote that while those in her caucus were disappointed with some aspects of the bill, she believed that the measure would be supported.

“I’ve had lots of conversations with our members who all feel frustrated that minimum wage was not included,” she said. But she noted, “Everybody understands this is a big progressive win.”

No Republican in Congress has cast a vote in favor of the $1.9 trillion bill.

“We know for sure that it includes provisions that are not targeted, they’re not temporary, they’re not related to COVID and it didn’t have to be this way,” House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, said before the vote.

“We could have had a bill that was a fraction of the cost of this one. It could have gotten bipartisan approval and support,” she said.

Democrats, who have a narrow majority in the House, had only four votes to spare in the vote. It passed the House the first time on a 219 to 212 vote, and cleared the Senate on the narrowest of margins a 50-49 vote.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that of the $1.9 trillion bill, $1.1 trillion will be spent his year, with $459 billion coming in 2022.