The House passed President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package in a 219-212 vote nearly along party lines early Saturday. Two Democrats, Reps. Jared Golden (D-Maine) and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) voted against the bill with Republicans, who consider the package too expensive, taking particular opposition to measures like funding for state and local governments.
The legislation, which includes $1,400 direct payments for individuals earning up to $75,000 per year (as well as couples earning a combined $150,000) and extends enhanced unemployment benefits through August, will now head to the Senate, where its contents could change, The New York Times reports.
The bill includes a proposal that would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025, but Democrats, who narrowly hold the Senate, are using reconciliation, a process that will allow them to pass the bill with a simple majority and avoid Republican obstruction. Reconciliation comes with strict limits on what can be included in a measure, and the Senate's nonpartisan parliamentarian ruled against the wage hike.
Several congressional progressives, who are prioritizing the increase, criticized the decision and called for Senate Democrats to move forward anyway, but the White House said Biden, while disappointed, respects the ruling. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and his colleagues are exploring alternatives, including an escalating tax on the payrolls of large corporations whose employees earn less than a certain hourly wage. It's unclear if that will qualify under the rules of reconciliation. Read more at The Associated Press and The New York Times.