House Democrats expressed optimism that they will deliver President Biden an early legislative victory this week by passing his $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus legislation and make strides toward erasing poverty in the United States in doing so.
Despite concern from progressives that the package doesn’t go far enough, the chairman of the Democratic Caucus said Tuesday the bill would pass with united Democratic support.
“I’m 110% confident that the votes exist to pass the American rescue plan,” Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., said at a Capitol news conference.
The final vote was slated to take place Tuesday, but the bill – at more than 600 pages – was delayed coming over from the Senate. The vote is now expected Wednesday morning.
If successful, the legislation will head to Biden’s desk for his signature this week and mark what Democrats believe is a major step forward to ending the coronavirus pandemic and giving struggling families an enhanced safety net during the economic downturn.
House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., meets with reporters following a conference call with fellow Democrats, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Jan. 4, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Biden and Democrats have billed the legislation as a major anti-poverty program that will single-handedly lift millions of children out of poverty through more stimulus checks, enhanced unemployment benefits and a new advanced child tax credit that will put more cash into parents’ pockets.
“This legislation represents the boldest action taken on behalf of the American people since the Great Depression,” House Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., said.
While Republicans backed many of the provisions of the legislation in past rounds of bipartisan coronavirus relief, they have been united against this Biden-backed bill saying it’s too big and filled with liberal wishlist items that are unrelated to the pandemic.
Republicans say they were willing to work with Biden on a much smaller and targeted bill and said the big spending bill will saddle families in the long run with growing national debt.
“It’s a real tragedy when you look at that package, we know that the results of that package are going to be middle-class tax increases,” Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said at a news conference Tuesday. “We know for sure that it includes provisions that are not targeted, they’re not temporary, they’re not related to COVID, and it didn’t have to be this way.”
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the House Republican Conference chair, joined from left by Rep. Jason Smith, R-Mo., top Republican on the House Budget Committee, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., speaks to reporters as Congress preps for its first votes on the Democrats’ $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Democrats point to public opinion polling that shows bipartisan support for the provisions of the coronavirus bill and questioned Republicans’ sudden hesitation.
“House Democrats are the party of crushing the coronavirus and providing relief to everyday Americans,” Jeffries said. “House Republicans are the party of fake outrage, as it relates to Dr. Seuss. It’s a strange thing.”
Major provisions of the legislation include another round of $1,400 stimulus checks to adults and children, an extension of $300-per-week federal unemployment benefits and a new advanceable and refundable child tax credit that would amount to direct payments from the IRS to families. The tax credit is worth $3,600 per child under the age of 6, and $3,000 for children older than 6.
Progressives, including members of the Squad, had expressed concern last week about changes made to the legislation in the Senate that would remove the $15 minimum wage hike provision, lower the unemployment benefits from $400 to $300 and phase out the income eligibility for the stimulus checks more quickly.
Democrats can afford to lose only four votes in the House on Wednesday as their majority is very slim.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that Biden’s coronavirus proposal would add $1.862 trillion to the national deficit over 10 years, with the bulk of the new spending – $1.173 trillion – occurring in the fiscal year 2021.
The federal government ran an annual deficit of $3.1 trillion in the 2020 fiscal year, more than triple the deficit of the previous year, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center. The cumulative national debt now sits at $28 trillion.