WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden scored his first legislative win as the House of Representatives passed his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package early Saturday, though Democrats face challenges to their hopes of using the bill to raise the minimum wage.
Democrats who control the chamber passed the sweeping measure by a mostly party-line vote of 219 to 212 and sent it on to the Senate, where Democrats planned a legislative maneuver to allow them to pass it without the support of Republicans.
The American Rescue Plan would pay for vaccines and medical supplies and send a new round of emergency financial aid to households, small businesses and state and local governments. The bill’s big-ticket items include $1,400 direct payments to individuals, a $400-per-week federal unemployment benefit through Aug. 29, and help for those in difficulty paying rents and home mortgages during the pandemic.
Democrats said the package was needed to fight a pandemic that has killed more than 500,000 Americans and thrown millions out of work.
“The American people need to know that their government is there for them,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a debate on the House floor.