The House voted to pass the “American Rescue Plan Act of 2021,” by a vote of 220 to 211. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki called the 628-page, $1.9 trillion spending bill “one of the most consequential and most progressive pieces of legislation in American history.”
Psaki went on to say that the COVOD-19 relief plan, HR 1319, “will give us the tools and resources we need to crush this virus.” She said the bill would send “$1,400 checks to 158.5 million Americans” and that a “family of four making $100,000 will get $5,600 in direct checks, lifting 11 million people out of poverty and cutting child poverty in half this year, including through a historic expansion of the child tax credit that will benefit 66 million kids across the country.”
As previously reported by The Daily Citizen, the measure does not include the Hyde Amendment, which keeps taxpayer money from funding abortions. In a blog about the bill’s passage, Focus on the Family President Jim Daly asked why the bill was funding the killing of babies in the womb, an issue Christians care deeply about.
He said, “The outrageous and unconscionable use of taxpayer dollars for the destruction of life both maddens and saddens my heart. As I have said over this past year, how the same individuals who understandably lament the loss of life to the virus can celebrate and support the destruction of innocent pre-born life is beyond me.”
The Senate had approved HR 1319 on Saturday, March 6, sending it back to the House for this final vote. Senators made some modifications to the bill, such as dropping the provision that would have raised the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 per hour by 2025; lowering the ceiling on income for those receiving the $1,400 per person stimulus; and keeping unemployment payments at $300 per week, rather than the $400 the House was looking for, The New York Times reported.
The Senate version also removed $1.5 million in funding for a bridge between New York and Canada and more than $100 million for a new tunnel for the Bay Area Rapid Transit System, in San Jose, California.
Despite the removal of the minimum wage increase, which he supported, Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., applauded the legislation. In a press statement, he said, “As Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, I am proud that we passed the American Rescue Plan, which, in my view, is the most significant piece of legislation to benefit working families in the modern history of this country.”
Sanders said the spending package “extends unemployment benefits, reduces child poverty by half, ensures we are vaccinating as many people as possible, and puts us on a path to safely reopen schools.”
House Budget GOP Leader Jason Smith, R-Mo., differed with that assessment. In a statement to the House Rules Committee March 9, he said, “Let’s be clear – the bailout we are discussing has little to do with COVID-19. So much of what is in this bailout is for the political class, not the working class.”
In a statement labeled “$1.9 Trillion Biden Bailout Bill: Cliffnotes” [sic], House Budget Republicans said HR 1319 was the “Wrong Plan, Wrong Time, Wrong Reasons,” explaining how the money was being spent:
- Less than 9 percent goes to combating COVID-19 through public health spending
- Meanwhile: 27 percent or more than $500 billion goes to state and local governments
- Meanwhile: 21 percent or approximately $400 billion goes to policies that reduce private-sector employment
- Meanwhile: 22 percent includes:
- $135 million for the National Endowment for the Arts
- $135 million for the National Endowment for the Humanities
- $200 million for the Institute of Museum and Library Services
- $12 billion for foreign aid
- Excluding stimulus payments to individuals, almost half of the bill will not be spent until 2022 or later – approximately 45 percent or $670 billion
House Budget Republicans said the total price tag for all federal coronavirus stimulus bills, almost $6 trillion, adds up to $17,000 per person, $69,000 for a family of four.
Daly noted that the $1,400 checks will help many families that “found their lives turned upside down and inside out this past year as the pandemic scuttled every normal rhythm and routine.”
But he also questioned the long-term cost for families of the entire bill – as it adds to the national debt, which will be passed on to younger generations. He explained that the national debt today is “just over $28 trillion,” adding, “If the government divided that amount among its people, that would come out to nearly $85,000 per citizen and nearly $224,000 per taxpayer.”
HR 1319 bill adds almost another $2 trillion. Daly opined, “No nation will ever fully thrive that uses the hardworking tax dollars of its people to destroy its next generation.”
Representative John Yarmuth, D-Ky., is chair of the House Budget Committee and sponsor of the American Rescue Plan. In remarks before the bill passed, he said, “Mr. Speaker, as the sponsor of this legislation I am immensely proud that we will soon send this bill to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law. We have acted with the urgency this pandemic demands, while following every House rule and proper procedure required for a budget reconciliation package.”
Yarmuth also said, “The American Rescue Plan is aggressive – no doubt about it. But researchers and health professionals have told us this is what is needed to scale up testing and tracing, to address PPE [personal protective equipment] shortages, and to speed up equitable vaccine distribution. They have told us these investments are needed if we want to save lives and defeat this pandemic once and for all.”
The act now goes to President Joe Biden’s desk for signing. The White House Issued a statement from the president on the bill’s passage:
I want to thank all the members who voted for it, especially Speaker Pelosi, the finest and most capable speaker in the history of our nation. Once again, she has led into law an historic piece of legislation that addresses a major crisis and lifts up millions of Americans.
On Friday, I look forward to signing the American Rescue Plan into law at the White House – a people’s law at the people’s house.
Photo from REUTERS