Stimulus update: COVID-19 relief bill with $1,400 check, unemployment extension set for a vote Friday

The House is set to vote Friday on President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, announced on Tuesday.

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“The House will vote on Friday on @POTUS’ #AmericanRescuePlan to end this pandemic and deliver urgently needed relief to America’s families and small businesses,” Hoyer tweeted. “The American people strongly support this bill, and we are moving swiftly to see it enacted into law.”

The bill includes $1,400 direct payments to millions of Americans, an extension of federal unemployment benefits through August, money for schools and novel coronavirus vaccinations among other relief efforts.

While Democrats have voiced support for the nearly-$2 trillion bill, Republicans have snapped back on the price tag for the legislation and what bill’s funds are slated for.

“As more people find out what’s in this bill — and what’s not in this bill — they get more furious,” said House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., on a conference call Tuesday. Scalise criticized as wasteful spending various parts of the bill, including a hike in the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and money earmarked for museums, pension funds and public transit.

“Sunshine is the best disinfectant for liberal policies,” Scalise added.

Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough will be issuing her decision on whether the hike in the minimum wage will even be allowed in the bill since the legislation was crafted under “reconciliation.” Reconciliation is a process tied to the budget that allows bills to be passed on a simple majority vote instead of the usual 60 votes needed for passage. However, there are strict guidelines for what can be included in the bill using the process.

As parliamentarian, MacDonough decides whether certain provisions can be included in the bills lawmakers are trying to pass under reconciliation. She is expected to make an announcement about the minimum wage hike on Wednesday.

On Monday, the bill passed out of the House Budget Committee on a party-line vote, moving it along to a scheduled vote on Friday by the Rules Committee. If the bill is moved out of the rules committee as expected, it would then head immediately to the House floor for a vote.

If the bill passes the House, it moves to the Senate for consideration and a vote. The Senate can pass the bill as is, or it can make amendments and the bill would have to go back to the House to repeat the process.

If the bill passes the Senate as is, which with reconciliation is a much easier thing for Democrats to do, then it will head to Biden’s desk for his signature, making it a law.

The $1,400 direct payment checks are expected to go out within a week of the president signing the bill. The expansion of federal unemployment benefits would take place before March 14 when the payments are set to expire.