President Joe Biden is poised on Wednesday for his first major legislative victory when the House of Representatives is expected to approve his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, which forecasters predict will turbocharge the U.S. economy.
The bill, one of the largest stimulus measures in American history, includes $400 billion for $1,400 direct payments to most Americans, $350 billion in aid to state and local governments, an expansion of the child tax credit and increased funding for vaccine distribution.
Biden and his fellow Democrats who narrowly control Congress have described the legislation as a critical response to a pandemic that has killed more than 520,000 and thrown millions out of work.
“This bill attacks inequality and poverty in ways we haven’t seen in a generation,” Democratic Representative Jim McGovern, who chairs the House Rules Committee, said on Tuesday before the House voted to advance the legislation.
Republicans argue it is too costly and comes as the worst phase of the largest public health crisis in a century may have passed.
Biden may not sign the bill until later in the week, while it goes through final checks, according to people familiar with the White House’s plans.
The House is due to meet at 9 a.m. (1400 GMT) for two hours of debate before voting on the bill. The chamber last month passed an earlier version of the bill, but needs to meet again to approve changes made in the Senate over the weekend.
Congressional leaders do not expect a replay of the prolonged fights around earlier votes, which stretched past midnight in the House Rules Committee and went all night in the Senate in a session that ended on Saturday afternoon.
It is possible, however, that Republicans could delay proceedings on Wednesday. They could ask for a motion to send the bill back to a committee or a member could move to adjourn the House – a maneuver that right-wing Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene has attempted three times since taking office in January.
Although many Republicans supported coronavirus relief under former President Donald Trump’s administration, they have balked at the price tag for the Democratic package. No Republican lawmaker voted for the bill in the House or Senate, although a Morning Consult/Politico poll last month showed that 76% of voters and 60% of Republican voters supported the measure.
Democrats hold a 221-211 majority in the House and, without Republican support, can afford to lose the votes of only a few of their members.]
In the February vote in the House, two Democratic lawmakers voted against it. One of them, Kurt Schrader, said he would now vote for the bill with the Senate changes.
Some Democratic lawmakers had criticized those changes, but Pramila Jayapal, head of the left-wing Congressional Progressive Caucus, has told reporters she thought members would back the legislation.
The massive spending push is seen as a major driver, coupled with a quickening pace of COVID-19 inoculations and a slowing infection rate, in a rapidly brightening outlook for the nation’s economy.
Private- and public-sector economists have been marking up their growth estimates, with Morgan Stanley this week pegging 2021 economic output growth at 8.1%. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development on Tuesday predicted U.S. growth would top 6% this year, up from an estimate of around 3% just three months ago.
U.S. gross domestic product decreased 3.5% in 2020, the biggest drop since 1946, as the pandemic depressed consumer spending and business investment. Recovery began in the second half.
Americans have already pocketed $1.5 trillion in savings from the previous rounds of stimulus, and this one is coming as a rising portion of the population is finding it safer to resume activities such as dining out and traveling that have been off-limits for much of the past year, costing millions of service workers their jobs.