The US House of Representatives has narrowly passed the massive $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill. The package is now headed to the Senate, where the bill is expected to be stripped of its minimum wage hike provision.
President Joe Biden’s relief package, known as the American Rescue Plan, was passed by the House early on Saturday in narrow 219-212 vote. No Republicans have voted for the legislation, while two Democrats broke ranks and voted against it.
The legislation includes $1,400 checks for most Americans, as well as billions for state and local governments, schools and businesses. The package would also pay for coronavirus vaccines.
On top of that, the bill would gradually increase the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour by June 2025. The minimum wage has remained the same since 2009 and currently stands at the $7.25 per hour mark.
The wage provision, however, is unlikely to make it into the final legislation. On Thursday, Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough ruled that the bill would not fit into budget rules with it, and therefore cannot be passed with a simple majority unlike the rest of the aid package.
While the presidency, technically, had an option to overrule the parliamentarian, who serves as a referee of sorts for the upper house, it has already decided not to do so. “President Biden is disappointed in this outcome,” press secretary Jen Psaki said, adding that “he respects the parliamentarian’s decision and the Senate’s process.”
The direct stimulus payment of $1,400, which targets Americans with annual incomes below $75,000, has also turned out to be lower than expected. While on the campaign trail, Biden floated checks of $2,000, he later gave up on such promises, angering progressives.
The coronavirus pandemic has heavily hit the US, which has become the worst-affected nation in the world. The country’s tally is hovering just below the 28.5 million mark, while more than 510,000 people have succumbed to the disease, fresh figures by Johns Hopkins University show.