Democrats are racing to pass President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion pandemic aid package without Republican support.
The bill includes $1,400 checks for many Americans, money to boost vaccine distribution, funding for schools, expanded unemployment benefits, aid for state and local governments, and a minimum-wage increase to $15 an hour.
The House of Representatives plans to vote on the package this week, oiling the tracks for the Senate to take it up as soon as early March. Most bills require 60 votes to pass but the Senate is split 50-50. So Democrats have started the process of budget reconciliation, where legislation only needs support from 50 lawmakers plus Vice President Kamala Harris to break the tie.
Many Republicans oppose the legislation, arguing the amount of aid is too big and would add to the deficit. The bill’s $15 minimum wage increase has been particularly controversial — with Democratic senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema raising concerns, threatening the component’s passage.
Unlike the $2 trillion bipartisan Cares Act, which was passed last March when the U.S. economy was collapsing, this latest bill comes at a time when data is pointing up. U.S. retail sales posted the strongest advance in seven months — helped by the latest round of stimulus checks — and a measure of manufacturing output increased more than expected.
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