GOP unifies in opposition to $1.9 trillion COVID relief package

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During a news conference on Friday, Pelosi asserted that the minimum wage increase was a "value" and a "priority", but she urged colleagues not to get distracted from what the bill had to offer elsewhere.

Four days after the Covid-19 death toll surpassed 500,000 in the United States, the sprawling measure backed by President Joe Biden and described by Democrats as a moral imperative now heads to the Senate for consideration next week.

Democrats have a 221-211 advantage in the House, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi hopes almost all Democrats will vote to approve the relief bill, paving the way for a vote in the evenly divided 100-member Senate, where Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris has the tie-breaking vote.

The new framework comes as congressional Democrats push to include a gradual increase in the minimum wage to $15 per hour as part of the broader $1.9 trillion package.

Two Democratic aides told the Washington Post that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was weighing the the potential provision that has been proposed by Sen. 'We are one step closer to extending unemployment benefits for millions of Americans who are shortly going to lose them'. But because any bill must pass both chambers before the president signs it into law, the parliamentarian's decision effectively strips the wage hike out of the package. Jared Golden of ME and Kurt Schrader of OR were the only two lawmakers to cross party lines in the vote, while Republicans united against the bill.

But Senator Lindsey Graham, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, welcomed the decision. They also oppose the overall relief bill, saying it's too expensive, not targeted enough at people and businesses that most need it and a grab bag of gifts for Democratic allies. With no Republicans expressing support, every Democrat would have to vote in favor, with Vice President Kamala Harris likely needed to break a 50-50 tie.

Republican Representative Tom Cole said Bill was "bloated " with Democratic pet projects unrelated to the coronavirus.

But the minimum wage portion of the latest effort ran aground when the Senate parliamentarian ruled Thursday that it cannot be included in the sprawling aid plan as written under certain rules.

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If the bill passes the House as expected, it will be handed off to the Senate, which can add, subtract, or edit provisions. It would increase the child tax credit; provide more than $50 billion for vaccine distribution, testing and tracing; and allocate almost $200 billion to primary and secondary schools and $350 billion to state, local and tribal governments.

"Well, they shouldn't be doing it by paying people low wages", Khanna replied.

The package passed the House just after 2:00 am (07:00 GMT) Saturday, in a 219 to 212 vote, with not one Republican vote, and moves next week to the Senate.

Republicans argued that the measure was too costly and too broad in scope.

That's why raising the minimum wage to $15 is so important.

Lawmakers are hoping to pass the bill before March 14, which is when the expanded unemployment benefit of $300 per week expires, as the bill also includes a provision to increase the extra weekly unemployment benefit from $300 to $400 per week until August 29.

(Raising the minimum wage has nearly no Republican support, hence the urgency to push it through as part of the budget, with only Democratic votes.) As my Jacobin colleagues Andrew Perez and David Sirota have argued, Kamala Harris can and should use her authority as president of the Senate now to overrule MacDonough.

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