The United States House of Representatives approved at dawn yesterday – Spanish time – a new stimulus plan of 1.9 trillion dollars through which the president, Joe Biden, intends to relaunch the North American economy during the pandemic. It went ahead only thanks to the votes of the Democrats and the text must now pass the filter of the Senate. Republicans criticize that the measures are costly and poorly targeted. After hours of debate, the bill was adopted in the Lower House by 219 votes in favor and 212 against.
“After twelve months of death and despair, the American recovery begins tonight,” said Congressman Brendan Boyle shortly before the approval of the package, which comes four days after the United States exceeded 500,000 deaths from Covid-19.
Biden’s plan aims to sustain the economy and boost vaccination against the coronavirus. To do this, it foresees several billion dollars to increase the rate of inoculation and tests, and to help schools and high schools to reopen.
Although they have a tiny majority in the Senate, Democrats are confident that the text will pass. Then it will have to go back to the House of Representatives to reach a final version. “We have to approve the plan before March 14,” when unemployment benefits end, warned Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. “After a year of pandemic and economic crisis, Americans must know that their government acts for them. For her part, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the also Democrat Nancy Pelosi paraphrased Joe Biden when she said that: “Help is coming.
For his part, the head of the Republican minority, Kevin McCarthy, said that “the Democrats are so ashamed of all the waste of money not linked to the covid in this text that they approve it in the middle of the night.”
A little-known figure in Congress shook this plan. The person in charge of parliamentary procedures, Elizabeth MacDonough, considered that the text could not include the increase in the minimum wage to $ 15 an hour as Biden wanted, given the simple majority voting format decided by the Senate Democrats. Normally, the support of 60% is required for this type of law, and, in this case, with 51 votes the text could be approved by the Upper House.
Although some progressives were outraged and called for disregarding the vision of this unelected official, Biden said he “respected” her opinion. But he urged Congress to “move quickly to adopt the plan.” The president announced that he will try to separately push for an increase in the federal minimum wage, currently at $ 7.25. The Democratic heads of Congress anticipated on Friday that this would be the chosen route.
The removal of the minimum wage increase could even facilitate the final approval of the package, as some moderate Democrats opposed this idea. Senator Bernie Sanders and other Democrats are studying an alternative to push the minimum wage increase: introduce into the bill an amendment that creates tax penalties for large companies that pay less than “a vital minimum.” But moderate Democrats could also oppose this idea.
New checks for about $ 1,400 should be sent to Americans, depending on their income level, and unemployment benefits will be extended through September.