House Democrats on Friday unveiled a gargantuan $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, the first step of codifying the proposal crafted by President Biden’s administration.
The package that will be considered by the House Budget Committee is the result of a combination of measures that have already been approved by at least nine different committees.
The full package could pass the House as soon as next week, though it faces what is expected to be a fierce battle in the Senate given Democrats’ razor-thin majority in the upper chamber and opposition from some centrists over some of the bill’s language, particularly over a boost to the minimum wage.
“This reconciliation bill is the next step toward implementing the American Rescue Plan and finally changing the direction of these crises,” said Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), the chair of the Budget panel. “Without this relief package, conditions will spiral further out of control and families will suffer needlessly.”
“We are in a race against time, and aggressive, bold action is needed before our nation is permanently scarred by the human and economic costs of inaction," he added. "We have the plan and the fiscal space, we have the American people behind us, and now we have the bill to get it done.”
The unveiling of the 591-page bill comes as Congress stares down a deadline for expanded unemployment benefits, which are set to start expiring next month.
Several of the provisions advocated by Biden are in the legislation, including stimulus payments of up to $1,400 following the $600 that millions of Americans received under the last package.
The legislation also extends supplemental unemployment benefits and boost them from $300 per week to $400. Nutrition assistance and housing aid are also included in the bill.
Other provisions include $195.3 billion to states, $130.2 billion to local governments and $14 billion to research, develop and distribute vaccines.
The most controversial provision of the bill is an increase of the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025.
The legislation is likely to be changed in the Senate, where Democrats are trying to muscle the bill through via budget reconciliation, a gambit that would allow it to pass with a simple majority rather than reach a 60-vote threshold.
Republicans have come out swinging against the package, saying the federal government still hasn’t doled out all the money it has already allocated for pandemic relief. And centrist Democrats like Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) have voiced opposition to its $15 minimum wage provision.