- The House Budget Committee voted Monday to advance Biden’s $US1.9 ($2) trillion stimulus along party lines.
- The Democratic plan is on course to get a floor vote on either Friday or Saturday.
- Biden said on Monday that he was open to reducing the size of the package.
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The 19-16 vote was mostly split along party lines. Every Republican on the panel opposed advancing the measure. One Democrat, Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas, accidentally voted against the proposal and meant to support it, according to a committee spokesperson.
“We are in a race against time,” Rep. John Yarmuth, the chair of the budget panel, said in his opening statement. “Aggressive, bold action is needed before our nation is more deeply and permanently scarred by the human and economic costs of inaction.”
The measure now heads to the House Rules Committee, which can also amend the package. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last week that Democrats were gearing up to approve the measure by the end of the month.
Democrats push for passage via reconciliation
Democrats continue pressing ahead with their plans to enact the plan without Republican support. Democrats are using a process called reconciliation that allows them to pass a budgetary bill with only 51 votes in the Senate instead of the usual 60.
The 591-page bill includes $US1,400 ($1,776) stimulus checks, $US400 ($507) federal unemployment benefits, and significant funding for vaccines and testing. It also includes aid for states and a gradual minimum-wage increase to $US15 ($19).
President Joe Biden on Friday strongly defended the plan against GOP critics. “What would they have me cut?” he asked while touring a Pfizer plant in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
“Should we not invest $US20 ($25) billion to vaccinate the nation?” Biden said. “Should we not invest $US50 ($63) billion to help small businesses stay open when tens of thousands have had to close permanently?”
He added: “I could go on, but you get the point.”
A group of Senate Republicans led by Sen. Susan Collins offered up a $US618 ($784) billion economic-aid plan earlier this month. Democrats roundly rejected the proposal, and it failed to gain traction. Biden said on Monday that he was still open to reducing the size of the package.
“I’m prepared to hear ideas about how to make the American Rescue Plan better and cheaper,” Biden said. “But we have to make clear who we’re helping and who it would hurt.”
The legislation still faces several hurdles in the Senate. The Senate parliamentarian may toss out the provision for a minimum-wage increase, which would complicate the swift timeline that Democrats are pursuing.
About 18 million Americans are still receiving unemployment benefits nearly a year into a pandemic that has devastated the economy. The US also surpassed 500,000 deaths from COVID-19 on Monday, the highest recorded death toll in the world.
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