The House Budget Committee approved a massive COVID-aid spending bill on Monday, setting up a floor vote later this week with special rules that will prevent Republicans from blocking the measure when it reaches the Senate.
The $1.9 trillion measure passed a virtual Budget markup along party lines, highlighting universal GOP opposition to the bill that many in the Republican party have deemed wasteful and political. The vote was 19-16. One Democrat, Lloyd Doggett of Texas, voted against the bill.
Democrats, who control both the House and Senate, will employ a procedural tactic called reconciliation that will circumvent Senate GOP opposition by allowing the spending bill to pass with only 51 votes instead of 60. The Democrat-led House is expected to consider the bill this week and send it to the Senate.
Budget Committee Republicans called for postponing consideration of the measure until a full accounting is provided of the approximately $1 trillion in unspent funds from prior COVID spending bills Congress passed since the pandemic began.
Democrats argued a new round of funding is desperately needed to help mitigate the virus and help individuals, families and businesses cope with the prolonged consequences of the pandemic.
“It is tailored and targeted to respond to the urgent needs of the American people,” Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth, a Kentucky Republican, said Monday.
Yarmuth said the measure, “has the power to save lives and save our nation’s economic future.”
The bill would provide a new round of stimulus checks, worth $1,400 for individuals, and would extend enhanced unemployment benefits with an additional $400 per week.
The bill includes $350 billion for state and local governments and $130 billion for schools. It would spend $160 billion to combat the virus through testing, vaccine distribution and development.
It includes a provision to increase the minimum wage nationally to $15 per hour by 2025.
The measure is likely to change in the Senate, where budget rules Democrats hope to use to avoid a filibuster by the GOP may force lawmakers to abandon the minimum wage provision.
On Monday, Republicans criticized size and cost of the measure and said the government should first spend the $1 trillion left over from past federal COVID spending legislation.
They argued less than 9% of funding would be dedicated to combating the virus and much of that funding will not be spent until 2022.
“This is the wrong plan at the wrong time for all the wrong reasons,” Rep. Jason Smith, of Missouri, who is the top Republican on the budget panel, said.