By Alfonso Fernandez
Washington, Mar 9 (efe-epa).- The House of Representatives on Tuesday is debating the huge fiscal stimulus plan backed by President Joe Biden to give a push to the US economy amid the pandemic crisis and which is expected to be passed later this week without a single Republican vote.
“We’ll pass it. It’ll get signed into law by (March) 14th, and we’ll get people real relief,” Democratic Congressman Pete Aguilar told reporters on Tuesday.
The $1.9 trillion rescue plan moved forward in the Senate on Saturday, where Democrats relied on their newly-achieved majority – albeit with the tiebreaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris – to pass it.
After Senate modifications, the proposal now moves to the lower house, where Democrats amended it somewhat to win the support of party centrists.
The House had approved the original version of Biden’s plan in January, but the Senate version includes changes such as reducing unemployment benefits from $400 to $300 per week and the rejection of a gradual increase in the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour over the next five years.
Progressive Democrats felt that those changes were “relatively minor concessions,” in the words of Congresswomen Pramila Jayapal.
The American Rescue Plan is a “truly progressive and bold package that delivers on its promise to put money directly in people’s pockets.” Japayal said in a statement.
With House and Senate Democratic majorities, approval for the massive plan is virtually assured, despite the lack of GOP support.
The bill includes direct payments of $1,400 to taxpayers with incomes below $80,000 per year.
It also extends weekly $300 unemployment payments to the beginning of September, with current funding for that program expiring on March 14.
In addition, the package allocates $350 billion to state and local governments, $170 billion for reopening the country’s schools, $14 billion to strengthen the Covid vaccination plan and another $46 billion for the coronavirus testing system.
Despite Biden’s promises to restore the spirit of bipartisan unity, it seems that the ambitious bill will not have the support of a single GOP legislator either in the Senate or in the House.
Conservatives claim that the size of the bill is excessive and that it will only serve to add to the federal government’s already-huge debt.
One of the House GOP leaders, Liz Cheney, said at a press conference on Tuesday that Republicans believe that the bill includes provisions that allegedly are not well-designed and are not related to Covid, adding that “We could have had a bill that was, you know, a fraction of the cost of this one that could have gotten bipartisan approval and support, but the (House Speaker Nancy Pelosi) decided to go in another direction.”
If it is approved, the rescue plan backed by Biden would come in addition to the $900 billion package that Congress pushed forward with in December and the $2.2 trillion plan, the largest in US history, that was implemented in March 2020 during the administration of Republican President Donald Trump.
The US is the country that has been hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic with more than 525,000 deaths from Covid-19 and 29 million confirmed cases.