- The Washington Times
Monday, February 22, 2021

The House Budget Committee voted Monday to advance President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief legislation as House Democrats look to muscle it through the full chamber by the end of the week.

The committee voted 19-16 to advance the bill. It still needs to go through the rules committee before hitting the floor.

Democrats want to get the full package to Mr. Biden’s desk by mid-March, when expanded unemployment benefits from an earlier package are due to expire.

“We are in a race against time, and aggressive, bold action is needed before our nation is permanently scarred by the human and economic costs of inaction,” said Rep. John Yarmuth, the Kentucky Democrat who chairs the budget committee.

House Republican leadership is urging their members to vote no, saying that the package is not properly targeted to combating COVID-19.

“This is the wrong plan at the wrong time and for all the wrong reasons,” said Rep. Jason Smith of Missouri, the top Republican on the budget committee.

The package includes a $400-per-week boost to unemployment checks through the end of August. A $300-per-week boost is due to expire next month.

It also includes direct payments of up to $1,400 for millions of Americans, $350 billion for states and localities, $170 billion for K-12 schools and colleges, and $25 billion for restaurants, among other items.

Democrats also included a gradual increase in the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to a $15 hourly rate.

The Congressional Budget Office recently reported that the minimum wage hike would cost the economy 1.4 million jobs, though it would also lift about 900,000 people out of poverty.

There are some questions as to whether the minimum wage hike will pass muster with Senate rules.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernard Sanders of Vermont said over the weekend he’s confident the Senate parliamentarian will rule that the wage hike can be included under the fast-track budget tool Democrats are using to pass the package.

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