In a close vote Saturday morning, the House passed the $1.9 billion stimulus plan to assist the pandemic. The bill passed on a close 219-212 vote with two Democratic representatives joining Republicans in opposition.
Lawmakers are likely to make changes to the bill before passing it to the Senate, meaning the House will have to re-pass the bill with the changes before it reaches the floor to be signed into law by President Joe Biden.
“This bill meets the momentum, it meets the challenge, and we believe it is a great victory for the American people and will finally get us out of this terrible crisis we have faced,” said an elated Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY), chairman of the House Budget Committee.
Republicans have not been as euphoric about the passage of the stimulus plan and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R, CA) said this “is not an assistance bill. It is a handout for the Democrats’ political allies while failing to provide for American families.”
The stimulus plan that passed debate includes a $1,400 check for a large portion of Americans, an extension to additional unemployment benefits of $400 per American, as well as $104 billion for pandemic care, and $350 billion for transfers to the states.
Democrats managed to sneak several programs in the stimulus such as additional funding for Obamacare and the establishment of a new $15 federal minimum wage.
The Democratic Party hopes to pass the stimulus plan in the Senate by a special procedure known as ‘reconciliation’ and in the event of a tie vote, Vice President Kamala Harris would come in to break the tie.
However, on Thursday, Senate Chief Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough confirmed to lawmakers from both parties that the minimum wage could not be included within the stimulus plan if they wanted it to pass through “reconciliation.”
The passage of the stimulus plan with the minimum wage increase signals that the Democrats plan to submit the package to the traditional process where they will have to get 60 votes to pass the debate in the Senate; unless, of course, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer decides to overrule the judgment of the Senate parliamentarian.
Some voices within the progressive wing of the Democratic Party have called for disavowing the Parlamentarian’s decision, such as Senator Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) who said, “I just don’t think we can go back to the voters and say ‘I feel like we promised to do this for you, but we couldn’t because the Parlamentarian determined we couldn’t do it.’ The voters expect us to fight for this and make it a reality.”
Despite his party’s aspirations, President Biden himself has said he does not think it likely that the minimum wage will end up within the final stimulus plan, and considers it more feasible to pass in different legislation.
Unless they overrule the internal rules of the congressional process, Democrats are unlikely to get the $1.9 trillion stimulus plan through the Senate with the inclusion of the minimum wage, as they must first convince skeptics in their party and then at least 10 Republican senators. Seventeen states in the union still maintain the federal minimum wage set in 2009 of $7.25.