House Democrats passed a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill on Wednesday, sending one of the biggest stimulus plans in U.S. history to President Joe Biden‘s desk.
The president hopes to sign the bill Friday after Congress formally sends it to the White House, which can take days for large bills. Biden will check off his first major legislative item as the U.S. tries to ramp up Covid-19 vaccinations and jolt the economy.
Here are the proposal’s major pieces:
The bill passed the House by a 220-211 margin without a Republican vote, as the GOP argues the job market has recovered enough to warrant little or no new stimulus spending. One Democrat, Rep. Jared Golden of Maine, opposed it. Democrats also approved the plan on their own in the Senate through the special budget reconciliation process.
The party contends Congress needs to inject more money into the economy both to alleviate suffering from a year of economic restrictions and to prevent future pain as normal activity slowly restarts. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., touted it Tuesday as a “historic” and “transformative” bill that “goes a very long way to crushing the virus and solving our economic crisis.”
Democrats passed the bill as an improving economy nonetheless shows cracks. The U.S. added a better than expected 379,000 jobs in February as the unemployment rate dipped to 6.2%.
Still, 8.5 million fewer Americans held jobs during the month than did a year before. Black and Hispanic or Latino women have regained a smaller share of pre-pandemic employment than any other groups, according to government data.
More than 18 million people were receiving some form of unemployment benefits as of mid-February.
Republicans have argued the increasing pace of vaccinations of the most vulnerable Americans, combined with the gradual or even total reopening of many states, makes more stimulus spending unnecessary. They have accused Democrats of pushing priorities unrelated to the health crisis into the bill.
Some economists and GOP lawmakers have warned about the potential for massive spending to increase inflation.
“There is a real risk here, of this kind of massive stimulus overheating the economy. … I just think it’s sad because we could’ve done, I think something much more targeted and focused on Covid-19,” GOP Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio told CNBC on Wednesday morning.
After the February jobs report, Biden said passage of the stimulus plan would ensure the recovery would not falter.
This story is developing. Please check back for updates.
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