Biden signs $1.9 trillion Covid stimulus into law

Economic package is president's first major legislative priority

President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 trillion Covid stimulus package into law on Thursday, scoring the first major legislative victory of his new administration.

“This historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country,” Mr Biden said before signing the bill.

Congress passed the bill on Wednesday, with the House of Representatives clearing the legislation in a 220-211 party-line vote.

Americans will soon receive $1,400 stimulus cheques, $300 a week in federal unemployment benefits until the end of September and a child tax credit ranging from $3,000 to $3,600.

No Republicans voted for the bill, and Jared Golden of Maine was the only Democrat to side with Republicans in voting against it.

“No Republicans are voting for it this time,” House majority leader Steny Hoyer said on Tuesday.

Mr Hoyer said dozens of Republicans had joined Democrats in voting for bipartisan Covid-19 stimulus bills under former president Donald Trump.

“Republicans tend to vote for these things when there’s a Republican president, and they almost universally vote against them when there’s a Democratic president,” he said.

Republicans say the stimulus package will worsen the soaring $3tn US deficit, spurred in large part by the bipartisan $2.2tn and $900 billion stimulus bills Congress passed last year under Mr Trump.

The Congressional Budget Office forecasts that the Republican-led tax cuts passed under Mr Trump will add another $1.9tn to the deficit between 2018 and 2027.

The House passed a version of the bill that was even more generous last month, but centrist Democrats in the Senate used their influence to pass a reduced version in a 50-49 party-line vote on Saturday.

Joe Manchin of West Virginia blocked progress on the bill until his fellow Senate Democrats agreed to reduce the $400 a week unemployment insurance passed in the House to $300.

The Senate also deleted a provision that would have increased the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour from $7.25.

The parliamentarian, or Senate procedural adviser, ruled that the rise would breach a mechanism the Democrats used to pass the relief bill with 50 votes instead of the 60 typically needed to pass legislation in the upper chamber.

The White House chose not to have Vice President Kamala Harris use her authority as the Senate's presiding officer to overrule the parliamentarian amid opposition to the minimum wage rise from Mr Manchin and other centrist Democrats, such as Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

The stimulus also includes $7.25bn in small business loans, $128bn in grants for public education institutions, $25bn in grants for restaurants and bars, another $25bn in emergency rent assistance and $4.5bn for heating and cooling costs for low-income people.

It provides $7.5bn in additional funding for Covid-19 vaccine distribution.

EDITOR'S PICKS
NEWSLETTERS