WASHINGTON — The House passed President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan early Saturday in a nearly party-line vote, advancing a sweeping pandemic aid package that would provide billions of dollars for unemployed Americans, struggling families and businesses, schools and the distribution of coronavirus vaccines.
The vote was 219-212, with Democrats pushing the measure over unanimous Republican opposition. After hours of debate that stretched past midnight, two Democrats — Reps. Jared Golden of Maine and Kurt Schrader of Oregon — broke with their party and voted against the bill.
The plan would provide $1,400 direct payments to individuals earning up to $75,000 a year and to couples earning up to $150,000. It would also expand a weekly federal unemployment benefit that is set to lapse in mid-March, increasing the payments to $400 a week from $300 and extending them through the end of August. It would increase the child tax credit; provide more than $50 billion for vaccine distribution, testing and tracing; and allocate nearly $200 billion to primary and secondary schools and $350 billion to state, local and tribal governments.
Republicans argued that the measure was too costly and too broad in scope. Democrats, with slim margins of control in both chambers, were pushing the legislation through Congress using a fast-track budget process, known as reconciliation, that shields it from a Senate filibuster — which requires 60 votes to overcome — and allows it to pass on a simple majority vote, bypassing Republican opposition.
The legislation heads to the Senate, where it was expected to be amended and then sent back to the House for a final vote in Congress.
The bill could change substantially during Senate consideration. While it included a marquee progressive proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025, that measure has been ruled out of order by a top Senate official who said that it did not qualify under the strict budgetary rules governing reconciliation bills. Senate Democrats were exploring alternatives that would allow them to maintain a version of the wage increase in the stimulus package without imperiling the broader plan.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the majority leader, and other top Democrats were considering a plan that would penalize corporations that pay workers less than $15 per hour, a senior Democratic aide said.