The U.S. House of Representatives votes Friday on President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-relief package that aims to provide relief to businesses, governments and millions of Americans whose lives have been upended by the coronavirus crisis.
Lawmakers are expected to vote largely along party lines in the Democratic-controlled House. Passage would give Biden his first major legislative victory since entering office on January 20.
Debate over the package will likely be vigorous. Most Republicans oppose the cost of the measure that would cover the costs of vaccines and other medical supplies to combat the COVID-19 pandemic that has claimed more than 508,000 lives in the United States and pushed millions out of work.
The package would also provide an additional $1,400 direct payments to individuals and emergency financial aid to households, small businesses, and local and state governments.
Emergency unemployment benefits and tax breaks to lower wage earners and families with children would be funded in the relief bill, and business sectors hurt by the pandemic’s economic fallout, such as the restaurant and airline industries, would also receive financial relief.
A federal minimum hourly wage increase from $7.25 to $15 proposed by Democrats is unlikely to be in the final version of the bill. The parliamentarian in the Senate — the chamber's advisor on the interpretation of its rules and procedures, which also votes on the package — said Thursday the proposal must be dropped from the bill, as required by chamber rules.
The decision by Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough forces Democrats to seek other pathways for the minimum wage proposal to pass in the face of stiff Republican opposition.
Democrats have a 221-211 advantage in the House, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi hopes nearly all Democrats will vote to approve the relief bill, paving the way for a vote in the evenly divided 100-member Senate, where Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris has the tie-breaking vote.