The US House of Representatives is expected to pass President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package aimed at giving a financial boost to American households and businesses.
The House on Tuesday voted the bill 219-210, with no Republican voted in favour but just one Democrat voted “no”. The passage of bill gives Democrat President Biden a victory less than two months in the office.
President Joe Biden will likely sign the bill into law later this week.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said before the voting that she was confident about its passage in the majority-Democrat House, and that the focus was on “saving lives and livelihoods and giving people hope for the future.”
“Today we are on the doorstep of history. We are about to send the most sweeping and progressive economic investment in modern times to the president of the United States,” Representative Jim McGovern, a Democrat and chairman of the House Rules Committee, said on the House floor.
“This bill attacks inequality and poverty in ways we haven’t seen in a generation,” McGovern said, noting it included an expansion of the Affordable Care Act healthcare program, popularly known as Obamacare, as well as measures to cut child poverty in half.
But Republican Representative Michael Burgess criticised the bill saying the aid was not well targeted, providing $1,400 checques to anyone earning $75,000 a year or less, “including those who may not have lost their jobs or experienced reduced employment” because of the coronavirus. He was angry that the bill provided $125 billion to schools “even if they remain closed.”
Democrats hold a very narrow majority in the House, meaning that without any Republican support, they can afford to lose only a handful of votes by their own members against the bill. They lost two moderate Democrats the first time the bill went through the House, but one of those, Representative Kurt Schrader, said he changed his mind and backed the Senate-passed version.
Democrats touted the “bill to attack the coronavirus pandemic and economic downturn but as a generational anti-poverty measure.”
Some liberal House Democrats have criticised the Senate’s amendments. But Representative Pramila Jayapal, who heads the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told reporters she thought members of her group would back the legislation.
Meanwhile, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki has praised the legislation, saying that while there were some changes, it represented the “core” of what Biden originally proposed.