The lower chamber in the early hours of the day “took the first step toward making it a reality,” Biden said in prepared remarks from the White House.
“And with their vote, we are one step closer to vaccinating the nation. We are one step closer to putting $1,400 in the pockets of Americans. We are one step closer to extending unemployment benefits for millions of Americans who are shortly going to lose them.”
Biden said he called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and expressed gratitude for her efforts on the $1.9 trillion proposal, which drew zero Republican votes and opposition from two Democrats.
“Now the bill moves to the United States Senate, where I hope it will receive quick action. I have—we have no time to waste. If we act now—decisively, quickly, and boldly—we can finally get ahead of this virus. We can finally get our economy moving again. And the people of this country have suffered far too much for too long. We need to relieve that suffering. The American Rescue Plan does just that: It relieves the suffering. And it’s time to act,” Biden added.
Vice President Kamala Harris also commented on the bill during a separate event, telling a Black History Month virtual celebration that it would deliver a fresh round of checks to most Americans and at least $3,000 for nearly every child.
“And why is that important? Because by doing that, we will lift half of those children living in poverty, out of poverty. And a disproportionate number of children in America who are living in poverty are black children. So think about that: Half of the children who are living in poverty now won’t be if we get this thing passed,” she said.
Harris alleged the proposal has bipartisan support, despite the lack of Republican backing in Congress. She appeared to be citing poll numbers.
The package, Democrats say, will help address struggles brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and measures imposed by governors and other officials in bids to curb the spread of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes the disease.
“Tonight, Congress is taking action to crush the virus with a national vaccination program, robust testing, tracing and treatment, more [protective equipment] and combating health disparities affecting communities of color disproportionately,” Pelosi told colleagues on the House floor in Washington before voting on the package.
But Republicans and two Democrats in the House pointed to measures included in the package that appear to have little to do with crushing the virus, such as a minimum wage hike, and how funding for some areas, such as schools, are primarily backended, with only a small percentage lined up for this year.
“This massive $1.9 trillion spending spree is nothing more than a fiscally irresponsible liberal wish list,” Rep. Andy Barr said on the floor. “Less than 10 percent of this bill actually responds to the pandemic in the form of vaccine distribution and other public health needs. The vast majority of this funding goes to misplaced priorities such as bailing out mismanaged state and local governments for pre-COVID liabilities.”
Pelosi said the House was sending the package to the Senate and is still working on ways to keep the wage hike in the final product, after the upper chamber’s rules expert ruled it wasn’t allowed because Democrats are using a budget process to pass the package.
That enables them to avoid needing any Republican votes in either chamber, provided all 50 Democrats in the Senate vote to approve the bill.