House GOP Leadership Recommends ‘No’ Vote on Biden’s Proposed COVID-19 Relief Bill

February 19, 2021 Updated: February 20, 2021

House Republican leadership is recommending a “no” vote on a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill spearheaded by Democrats that closely resembles President Joe Biden’s proposed stimulus plan, House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said in an email to his caucus on Friday.

“Leadership recommends a NO vote,” Scalise wrote in an email obtained by The Hill.

The bill, packaged together by the House Budget Committee, is set to be voted on the House floor next week. Democrats on Friday unveiled the full text of the 591-page bill (pdf), titled the “American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.”

Biden has proposed $160 billion for vaccines and testing, $170 billion for schools and universities, and funds to give certain Americans a $1,400-per-person stimulus check, among other provisions.

Scalise’s team, in the email, dubbed the bill as “Pelosi’s Payoff to Progressives Act.” It alleged that Democrats have rushed to bring to the floor the relief package that “will keep schools closed, bail out blue states, pay people not to work, and raise the minimum wage to $15/hour.”

“Republicans insist that we must safely reopen schools, reopen the economy, speed up vaccine distribution, and effectively spend the remaining $1 trillion from previous COVID packages,” the email from Scalise reads. “However, Democrats rejected hundreds of Republican amendments and any efforts to advance bipartisan solutions that are targeted, temporary, and tied to COVID relief.”

Scalise had noted in an opinion piece co-authored with Tim Phillips published by The Washington Post that more than $1 trillion of previously enacted COVID-19 assistance remains unspent.

“We have no business borrowing an additional $1.9 trillion from our children’s future when all of that remains to be spent to help our country reopen safely,” the two wrote.

Scalise’s team said in the email, “It’s clear Democrats have no interest in approaching COVID relief in a timely and targeted fashion and are instead using the reconciliation process to jam through their liberal wish list agenda.”

Senate rules governing “reconciliation” bills such as this one allow it to move through the chamber by simple majority votes. Most other bills need to have the backing of at least 60 senators to clear procedural hurdles.

The email noted 14 provisions in the bill in a list of dot points, which included a “$350 billion bailout for blue states,” and a projection that the bill would kill 1.4 million jobs by raising the national minimum wage by 107 percent to $15 an hour.

The controversial proposal in the House bill seeks to gradually raise the federal minimum wage, now set at $7.25 an hour, to $15 by 2025.

Speaker Pelosi
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) speaks at a weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Feb. 18, 2021. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), in a statement, disputed the message of the email and the GOP leadership’s push for a “no” vote. She accused Scalise of having “specifically attacked” the American Rescue plan’s nutritional assistance amid the pandemic.

“Americans need help. House Republicans don’t care,” she alleged.

“With millions of Americans unemployed and demanding relief to reopen schools and get people back to work, House Republican leadership is demanding its members vote against a bipartisan plan to help struggling Americans,” Pelosi wrote.

Pelosi said that the bill is “supported by 73 percent of Americans (including a majority of Republicans) and backed by economists on both sides of the aisle.” She also said that bond credit rating company Moody’s Investors Service has found that the $1,400 stimulus checks will create 10 million American jobs.

If the House passes the bill, it will be voted on in the Senate, where Democrats have the smallest possible majority.

A non-profit think tank earlier this month reported that nearly half of the House’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill was being diverted to non-pandemic issues unrelated to providing pandemic relief. Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for Responsible Federal Budget, said in a statement that “nearly half of the package will be spent on poorly targeted rebate checks and state and local government aid, including to households and governments that have experienced little or no financial loss during this crisis.”

The Congressional Budget Office projected last week that the real (inflation-adjusted) GDP is projected to grow by 3.7 percent in 2021 as increased vaccination reduces COVID-19 spread. The GDP would thereby return to its pre-pandemic level by the middle of the year without any changes in government spending, according to the projection.

Tom Ozimek and Reuters contributed to this report.

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