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House poised to vote on $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill



(WASHINGTON) — House Democrats intend to pass a massive $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill on Wednesday with the goal of having it on President Joe Biden’s desk by the end of the week, just days before key federal unemployment benefits start to expire for many workers on March 14.

The House began debate Wednesday morning after receiving the Senate-approved bill on Tuesday following a lengthy paperwork process that took nearly 70 hours to complete.

The final vote, originally set for around noontime, was delayed for about 45 minutes when GOP Rep. Majorie Taylor Greene, forced a vote on a motion to adjourn, which was soundly defeated.

A record number of Republicans – 41 – voted against her latest effort to delay House action on measures she opposes.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Tuesday that she is “so excited” to pass the legislation.

“It’s a remarkable, historic, transformative piece of legislation which goes a very long way to crushing the virus and solving our economic crisis,” Pelosi said during a news conference on Capitol Hill.

House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., told reporters Tuesday he is “110% confident” his party has the votes to approve the plan without any GOP support — handing Biden a critical first big victory.

Republicans have taken issue with the price tag.

“It’s a real tragedy when you look at that package, we know that the results of that package are going to be middle-class tax increases, we know for sure that it includes provisions that are not targeted, they’re not temporary, they’re not related to COVID, and it didn’t have to be this way,” House GOP Conference Chair Liz Cheney said Tuesday.

“We could have had a bill that was a fraction of the cost of this one that could have gotten bipartisan approval and support, but the speaker decided to go in another direction. We are going to be saddled with a burden, a spending burden, and a tax burden that is really indefensible from the perspective of what it actually accomplishes,” Cheney said.

“I feel sad for them that they are so oblivious to meeting the needs of the American people and oblivious to the support that this bill has among Republicans across the country,” Pelosi had said Monday.

The legislation originally cleared the House at the end of February, but the chamber must pass the bill again after changes were made in the Senate.

The bill would send $1,400 stimulus checks to individuals making $75,000 or less and to couples earning up to $150,000. The Senate’s version of the bill narrowed eligibility for the stimulus checks. The payments would phase out for those earning more than $80,000. That means many who qualified for earlier rounds of relief payments won’t be receiving one this time around.

Democratic leaders were also forced to trim back weekly jobless benefits to $300 from $400 with the federal boost through Sept. 6. The first $10,200 of income for those jobless Americans making under $150,000 would be tax-free.

The bill also includes a child tax credit that gives families $3,000 per child per year.

The legislation also sends $350 billion to state, local and tribal governments, $50 billion for contact tracing, $16 billion for vaccine distribution, $130 billion for K-12 education, funds for rental and mortgage assistance, support for restaurants and bars, funding for nutrition programs and more.

The White House has previously said Americans who qualify for the stimulus checks should see payments hit their accounts before the end of the month.

On Thursday, Biden will make his first primetime address “to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 shutdown,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced during a briefing Monday.

“He will discuss the many sacrifices the American people have made over the last year and the grave loss communities and families have suffered. The president will look forward, highlighting the role that Americans will play in beating the virus and getting the country back to normal,” Psaki said.

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