The US President Joe Biden’s Covid relief bill worth $1.9 trillion for Americans has been passed by the House of Representatives.
Two Democrats who found it too expensive joined Republicans and opposed it.
Now the bill must go to the evenly-divided Senate, which has already blocked a key element – doubling the US minimum wage to $15 an hour.
The bill aims to boost vaccinations and testing, and stabilize the economy. The cash would be extended as emergency financial aid to households, small businesses and state governments.
The Democrats only have a thin, 10-seat majority in the House, but they found sufficient numbers – 219 to 212 – in a vote that went into the early morning on Saturday.
President Biden championed the ‘American Rescue Plan’ as a means to help struggling Americans during the pandemic. While Republicans say the plan is unnecessarily large and stuffed with Democratic priorities unrelated to the pandemic. However, the Democrats will face a bigger challenge in the Senate when the package is debated there, probably next week
Elizabeth MacDonough, the Senate parliamentarian, on Thursday, said that raising the minimum wage would violate the budgetary limits allowed in this kind of measure.
The bill that passed in the House does still include the increase in the minimum wage. However, it is ambiguous how this can be resolved. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the rest of the bill will still pass, even if this section is taken out by the Senate.
Nonetheless, the minimum wage rise remains a key Democrat goal, particularly for the party’s progressive wing, and few leading Democrats are considering a measure to penalize employers who pay less than $15 an hour.
On the other hand, Republicans argue that the increase in wages will be a burden on the struggling firms who are trying to rebuild after the economic devastation caused by pandemic.