The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives on Friday was poised to push through President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus aid package, although it looked unlikely to be able to use the bill to raise the minimum wage nationwide, Reuters reported.
A contentious and potentially long debate was expected, as most Republicans oppose the cost of the measure to pay for vaccines and other medical supplies to battle a COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 500,000 Americans and thrown millions out of work.
The package would also send a new round of emergency financial aid to households, small businesses and state and local governments.
A group of Senate Republicans had offered Biden a slimmed-down alternative, but the White House and some economists insist a big package is needed.
Representative Jim McGovern, chairman of the House Rules Committee, said polls have shown that most Americans support the stimulus bill.
“The only place this is a partisan issue is here in Washington,” McGovern said as the panel considered what to include in a full House debate expected later on Friday. “This is more than just numbers on a page. We are here because people are hurting and communities are struggling.”
Republican Representative Tom Cole said about $1 trillion of the $4 trillion passed in aid last year remains unspent, and the bill was “bloated” with Democratic pet projects unrelated to the coronavirus.
“Shouldn’t we at least spend down the funds already allocated, and see if new money is actually required?” Cole said.
Biden has focused his first weeks in office on tackling the greatest public health crisis in a century, which has upended most aspects of American life.
Democrats control the House by a 221-211 margin, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi is counting on nearly all of her rank and file to get the bill passed before sending it to a 50-50 Senate where Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris holds the tie-breaking vote.
Embedded in the House bill is a federal minimum wage increase, which would be the first since 2009 and would gradually bump it up to $15 an hour in 2025 from the current $7.25 rate.