House Democrats unveil $ 1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Drive-through sales at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank in West Covina

Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden’s call for a $ 1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill took a step forward on Friday as a US House committee unveiled legislation that would end the Democrats want to say goodbye next week.

The 591-page bill, pieced together by the House Budgets Committee, would carry out Biden’s proposals to allocate extra cash for COVID-19 vaccines and other medical equipment.

Biden was on tour on Friday Pfizer (NYSE 🙂 Michigan vaccine facility as part of an effort to ramp up production. To date, only about 15% of the US population has been vaccinated against the coronavirus.

However, the main components of the massive relief plan are focused on revitalizing the country’s economy, which struggled with layoffs and shutdowns last year as a result of a pandemic that killed nearly 500,000 Americans. The plan would provide direct payments to households, expanded federal unemployment benefits, aid to state and local governments, and other steps.

House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi said she was aiming for a vote in the Chamber of Democratic Controllers to pass the bill – a top priority for the new Democratic Biden administration – by the end of next week.

Earlier on Friday, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, a Democratic compatriot, said his deeply divided chamber would pass the bill before March 14, when the final round of federal unemployment benefits expires.

While Schumer said he welcomed “constructive amendments” from Republicans, he added in a letter to ordinary Democrats, “Make no mistake: the era of Mitch McConnell’s legislative cemetery is over.”

Senator McConnell, a Republican, was the majority leader from 2015-2020 and proudly called himself the “Grim Reaper” of the Democratic House legislative initiative.

The house bill includes a controversial proposal to gradually increase the federal minimum wage, now set at $ 7.25 an hour, to $ 15 by 2025.

The provision faces several difficulties: Republicans oppose it, and at least two moderate Senate Democrats have warned that they too would vote against, which would lower the 50-50 Senate pay increase.

More importantly, the Senate MP could altogether forbid arcane Senate rule action on “reconciliation” laws like this, which allow him to move through the Chamber with a simple majority. Most of the other bills require the support of at least 60 senators to overcome procedural hurdles.

The House Budgets Committee will meet on Monday to weigh the changes to the bill before being sent to the entire House for discussion and approval.

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