(Headline USA) A Congress riven along party lines approved a landmark $1.9 trillion COVID-19 “relief bill” Wednesday, as President Joe Biden and Democrats claimed a triumph on a bill that marshals the government’s money-printing might against twin pandemic and economic crises that have upended a nation.
The House gave final congressional approval to the gargantuan package by a near party line 220-211 vote precisely seven weeks after Biden entered the White House and four days after the Senate passed the bill. Republicans in both chambers opposed the bill unanimously, characterizing it as bloated, crammed with liberal policies and heedless of signs the crises are easing.
“Help is here,” Biden tweeted moments after the roll call ended.
But Republican Rep. Pete Stauber of Minnesota called the bill “disastrous” and warned it would force future tax increases on the middle class.
“The Democrats chose to exploit this crisis to advance their own partisan agenda,” he said, adding that only 10 percent of the funds go towards defeating the virus.
Among the pork in the bill that Stauber cited:
- Stimulus checks for illegal immigrants
- $50 million for Planned Parenthood
- $200 million for Museum and Library Services
- $270 million for the Endowment for Arts/Humanities
- $600 million for Pelosi’s hometown of San Francisco
- $12 billion for foreign aid
- $111 billion for welfare without work requirements
Other provisions provide up to $1,400 direct payments this year to most adults and extend $300 per week emergency unemployment benefits into early September.
“Today we have a decision to make of tremendous consequence,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., “a decision that will make a difference for millions of Americans, saving lives and livelihoods.”
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 and creating more massive government debt 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.
Rep. Jared Golden of Maine was the only Democrat to oppose the measure. He said in a written statement that the bill provided hundreds of billions of dollars “in excess of meeting the most urgent needs,” and he said that endangered the economic recovery.
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. They said this one solely reflected Democratic goals by setting aside money for family planning programs and federal workers who take leave to cope with COVID-19 and failing to require that shuttered schools accepting aid reopen their doors.
“If you’re a member of the swamp, you do pretty well under this bill. But for the American people, it means serious problems immediately on the horizon,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., referring to the added federal borrowing the measure will force.
Adapted from reporting by Associated Press.