The 218–212 vote on Feb. 3 was entirely along party lines, except for two Democrats, Reps. Ed Case (D-Hawaii) and Jared Golden (D-Maine), who sided with Republicans against the resolution. Rep. Ron Wright (R-Texas) missed the vote.
Democrats control both the House and the Senate, enabling them to use budgetary measures to push the relief package through without any GOP votes.
Biden met with a group of Republicans at the White House on Feb. 1 to discuss his proposal and a competing one they’ve put forth. Many Republicans feel Biden’s $1.9 trillion package is much too large, especially coming on the heels of the $900 billion COVID-19 response bill that Congress passed and then-President Donald Trump signed in December 2020. The Republicans’ relief bill comes in at $618 billion.
COVID-19 is the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
Shortly before Biden’s meeting, Democratic leaders in the House and Senate filed a joint budget resolution, the first step in passing a relief package.
“We are hopeful Republicans will work in a bipartisan manner to support assistance for their communities, but the American people cannot afford any more delays and the Congress must act to prevent more needless suffering,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a joint statement.
The House took the next step on Feb. 3 with the approval of the resolution. The Senate hasn’t yet voted on the measure.
Speaking on the House floor, Democrats attempted to paint Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other Republicans as obstructionists who forced the other side to resort to the budget reconciliation.
“Nothing we’re doing here today precludes a bipartisan deal. But let’s be clear, the American people overwhelmingly support President Biden’s plan, and I can assure you they couldn’t care less about House procedures. They want us to act and get them the relief they need now,” House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) said.
Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) said Congress needs to move fast against the CCP virus to defeat the pandemic but also so it can move on to address climate change.
“We can’t waste time. Temperatures are rising,” he told colleagues.
Rep. Young Kim (R-Calif.) noted that hundreds of billions of dollars of relief spending remains unspent and criticized Democrats for utilizing a partisan method, urging the House to show “that Congress can work together for the American people.”
“Bypassing the chance for bipartisanship is not the way to bring relief to the American people or to bring unity,” she said, referring to Biden’s stated goal of unifying the country.
The two parties agree on the need for $160 billion for CCP virus vaccine distribution and administration. They both want more stimulus checks sent out, although Republicans are pushing for targeted relief. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) said on Fox News this week that he got a stimulus check in the mail despite his high salary as a senator, and analysis showed households earning more than $78,000 spent little of the last round of funding.
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), a Biden ally, told reporters outside the White House on Feb. 3 that the president talked about modifying direct payments during a call with Democrats.
“But President Biden was clear with us and with our caucus yesterday, he’s not going to forget the middle class, he’s not going to walk back from a real commitment,” Coons said.
Currently, the package would give checks to individuals making up to $75,000 a year. Couples making up to $150,000 a year would get them, too.
Biden convened with Senate Democrats in the Oval Office later on Feb. 3; the meeting wasn’t open to the press beyond a short glimpse. Schumer told reporters that the 90-minute meeting included discussion of many details of the relief package.
“There is agreement, universal agreement; we must go big and bold,” he said. “We hope our Republican colleagues will join us in that big bold program that America needs, the vast majority of Republican voters support large parts of the program. We want to do it bipartisan, but we must be strong.
“We cannot dawdle, we cannot delay, we cannot dilute because the troubles that this nation has and the opportunities that we can bring them are so large.”