The House approved a sweeping pandemic relief package over Republican opposition on Wednesday, sending it to President Joe Biden to be signed into law.
Watch the briefing in the player above.
The milestone political victory would provide $1,400 checks for most Americans and direct billions of dollars to schools, state and local governments, and businesses.
“Democrats are delivering. Promises made, promises kept, ” said Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer, D-New York.
Democrats said their “American Rescue Plan” would help the country defeat the virus and nurse the economy back to health.
“This is one of the most significant pieces of legislation passed in decades,” said Schumer. “It will do more to help the middle class, poor people and people struggling to get into the middle class than any bill in a very long time.”
Republicans criticized the $1.9 trillion package as more expensive than necessary and they complain it inflates the national debt and sends money to projects not directly tied to the pandemic.
The measure follows five earlier virus bills totaling about $4 trillion that Congress has enacted since last spring.
“Contrast this to what the Republicans did. They passed a bill of about the same size, $1.7 trillion that went primarily for the very wealthy and the biggest corporations in America and did virtually nothing to help middle class people,” Schumer said.
The measure addresses Democrats’ campaign promises and Biden’s top initial priority of easing a one-two punch that first hit the country a year ago.
Since then, many Americans have been relegated to hermit-like lifestyles in their homes to avoid a disease that’s killed over 525,000 people – about the population of Wichita, Kansas – and plunged the economy to its deepest depths since the Great Depression.
For Biden and Democrats, the bill is essentially a canvas on which they’ve painted their core beliefs – that government programs can be a benefit, not a bane, to millions of people and that spending huge sums on such efforts can be a cure, not a curse. The measure so closely tracks Democrats’ priorities that several rank it with the top achievements of their careers, and despite their slender congressional majorities there was never real suspense over its fate.
They were also empowered by three dynamics: their unfettered control of the White House and Congress, polls showing robust support for Biden’s approach and a moment when most voters care little that the national debt is soaring toward a stratospheric $22 trillion.
Neither party seems much troubled by surging red ink, either, except when the other is using it to finance its priorities, be they Democratic spending or GOP tax cuts.
Republicans noted that they’ve overwhelmingly supported five previous relief bills that Congress has approved since the pandemic struck a year ago, when divided government under then-President Donald Trump forced the parties to negotiate.