What You Need to Know
- Biden plans to sign the American Rescue Plan into law Friday.
- The legislation passed without a single Republican vote in either the House or Senate.
- Most Americans will be receiving direct payments of $1,400, with checks going out within days.
President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill cleared its final congressional hurdle Wednesday, with the House passing the bill on an 220 to 211 vote, sending it to the president for his signature.
The vote caps a nearly two-month sprint from the time Biden first unveiled his American Rescue Plan through tough negotiations in the Senate to its final approval largely in the form it was first proposed. Biden plans to sign the legislation on Friday.
The bill is a major political victory for the new president, displaying his influence over a Democratic Party in control of Congress by the thinnest of margins.
At the same time, the partisan divide over the bill foreshadows the difficulty Biden will have in enacting the multi-trillion dollar, longer-term economic program he wants later this year.
Most Americans will be receiving direct payments of $1,400, with checks going out within days. The bill provides new health-insurance subsidies and child-tax credits, while extending $300 per week supplemental unemployment benefits into September.
There’s also $360 billion for state and local governments, a bailout for troubled union pensions and funds to ramp up vaccinations and school re-openings.
“Tomorrow will make one year since the coronavirus was declared a public health emergency by the World Health Organization,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said as debate concluded. “Since that day nearly 30 million Americans have become infected, over half a million Americans have died–more lives than were lost in combat in all of America’s wars against foreign enemies combined.”
“This legislation puts nearly $1 trillion in the pockets of the American people,” she said. “I join President Biden in his promise: help is on the way.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration will be “moving full speed ahead on the implementation of the bill.”
The legislation passed without a single Republican vote in either the House or Senate, in sharp contrast to the bipartisan five previous bipartisan Covid-19 bills enacted under President Donald Trump, before the pandemic began retreating amid the current vaccination drive.
Representative Jared Golden of Maine was the lone Democratic no vote. He also had voted against the version that passed the House earlier.
Republicans blasted Biden, Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for rejecting more modest proposals. With the economy already on the rebound, they said the aid bill was excessive and will escalate financial risks.
“You can’t just keep adding mountains of debt at hundreds of billions at a time” without consequence, said Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 House Republican. “When you look at the priorities of Speaker Pelosi, it’s to spend as much money as quickly as possible on her socialist agenda.”
A group of 11 Republican senators said they could support a $650 billion stimulus bill, with more narrowly targeted benefits and a focus on anti-virus efforts. Biden hosted most of them at the Oval Office, only to conclude the gulf between them was too large to try to bridge.
Potential Growth Impact
The bill is far bigger than initial Wall Street expectations of what could be accomplished in a closely divided Congress. Economists this week were upping their projections for growth to incorporate the impact.
Morgan Stanley on Tuesday raised their 2021 forecast for U.S. economic growth to 7.3%, a pace unsurpassed since the Korean War boom in 1951.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that $1.1 trillion of spending under the relief bill would go out this year, with a further $476 billion coming in 2022.