A long-awaited COVID relief bill is now making its way to the US Senate after the House of Representatives approved the $1.9 trillion package early Saturday. CNN reports that the vote was 219-212, with no Republicans casting a "yea," and two Democrats joining their GOP colleagues in the "nay" column: Reps. Jared Golden of Maine and Kurt Schrader of Oregon. Included in the package, known as the American Rescue Plan, are $1,400 stimulus checks to qualifying Americans, extended unemployment benefits of $400 per week through August, an expanded child tax credit, and billions of dollars to boost vaccine distribution and to help local governments and schools, per USA Today and NBC News.
Much of the GOP pushback is related to pushback on measures that Republicans say overreach or shouldn't be included at all. One particular bone of contention is a provision calling for a federal minimum wage hike to $15 an hour. On Thursday, the Senate parliamentarian noted that such a provision violates Senate budget rules, which means the Senate will likely remove it. If that's the case, the bill will need to go back to the House for a separate vote before heading to President Biden's desk. Dems are also working on other ways to achieve a minimum wage hike, including via Sen. Ron Wyden's "Plan B," which would penalize large companies whose workers don't make a certain amount. Democrats are hoping to pass the bill by the middle of March, before current unemployment benefits from an earlier stimulus package expire. (Read more COVID relief bill stories.)