House passes $1.9 trillion COVID spending bill with minimum wage hike

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The House passed a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 aid spending bill early Saturday morning, leaving intact a $15 minimum wage mandate that sets up a clash with Senate rules that say it must be excluded.

Democrats debated past midnight on the massive measure, which would provide a broad array of benefits to individuals, businesses, and governments struggling to cope with the effects of the year-long coronavirus pandemic, including lockdowns.

The bill, which passed 219-212 with no Republicans voting for it and only two Democrats siding against it, now moves to the Senate, where the Democratic majority will be faced with significant pressure to find a way to keep the minimum wage increase in the measure.

Liberal Democrats are rejecting a Thursday decision by Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough that the $15 wage mandate violates special rules that Democrats want to use to pass the spending package with only 51 votes instead of 60.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, will have to decide whether to try to vote to override the parliamentarian or leave out the provision. Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, has proposed an alternative provision that would instead tax businesses that fail to raise the minimum wage to $15.

Democrats almost universally backed the bill. The massive spending package was proposed in January by President Biden. It would provide a new round of $1,400 stimulus checks, $400 in additional weekly jobless pay, $350 billion to state and local governments, $130 billion to schools, and nearly $50 billion in aid to businesses, including the airlines and restaurants.

Republicans rejected the measure, in part because of the minimum wage provision. Republican lawmakers said the bill was laden with nearly $1 trillion in wasteful spending, including the money for state and local government, which GOP members said would be used to bail out state governments for underfunded pension plans and other bad fiscal practices.

The bill also includes a buried provision providing federal employees up to $1,400 per week to remain at home if their children use remote learning for schooling or if they need to care for a disabled adult or recover from a COVID-19 vaccine.

The Senate is expected to begin considering the bill as early as next week.

Schumer is eager to pass the bill ahead of March 14, when the enhanced unemployment benefits run out.

The bill would extend the boosted jobless pay until nearly September and would increase the weekly bonus from $300 to $400.

Pelosi told reporters Friday the bill would ultimately pass Congress, even if the minimum wage provision is stripped out in the Senate.

“We have a consensus that we are here to get the job done for the American people,” Pelosi said.

Source : House passes $1.9 trillion COVID spending bill with minimum wage hike