House Budget Committee Clears Biden's $1.9T Relief Package

By Stephen K. Cooper
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Law360 (February 22, 2021, 7:06 PM EST) -- The House Budget Committee advanced President Joe Biden's pandemic relief legislation on Monday afternoon, moving the $1.9 trillion measure a step closer to approval by the full House expected later this week.

The committee, by a vote of 19 to 16, approved the American Rescue Plan, a bill to provide $1,400 economic stimulus payments and enhanced tax credits for families and individuals as well as tax incentives for small businesses and paid emergency sick leave for workers.

The bill would also allow poorer Americans to qualify for premium tax credits under the Affordable Care Act , extend federal jobless benefits to the fall, raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour and provide financial assistance to multiemployer pension plans.

Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Pa., said the American Rescue Plan has more support from Americans than similar tax bills passed by former presidents Bill Clinton in 2001, Barack Obama in 2009 and Donald Trump in 2017.

"This is actually the single most popular, major piece of legislation for incoming presidents over the course of my lifetime," Boyle said, citing recent Gallup polling.

Lawmakers on the Budget panel were prohibited from changing the bill under the expedited budget reconciliation process used to move the package quickly through Congress. The committee's role was to stitch together legislative packages from the House Ways and Means Committee and other House committees into a single bill.

The next stop for the American Rescue Plan is the House Rules Committee, where lawmakers expect the measure could be amended by Democratic leaders before landing on the House floor for vote on final passage. The Rules Committee hasn't yet set a date for considering the bill, a committee spokesperson said.

House and Senate leadership have said they want to approve the pandemic relief legislation well before a March 14 deadline, when certain unemployment aids that Congress approved in December would expire.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said that although his panel will not be holding a separate markup of the tax provisions in the bill, Senate Democrats were meeting to discuss the legislation, which needs to move quickly.

"I've been talking to senators about the various areas that are under our committee jurisdiction," Wyden told reporters, noting that senators are giving their input "and we're talking to the House all the time."

Wyden said once the House passes the bill this week, he expects the Senate to wrap up its work on the legislation next week.

"If necessary, we'll get everybody together, but we're just moving fast," Wyden said.

The House Ways and Means Committee approved the tax provisions of the plan on Feb. 11. The tax legislation approved by the committee would cost nearly $594 billion over the next decade, according to a revenue estimate by the Joint Committee on Taxation.

The legislation would provide $1,400 virus relief payments to individuals that would phase out for individuals making more than $75,000, or $150,000 for couples. No payments would go to individuals making more than $100,000 or couples making more than $200,000.

The bill would also increase the child tax credit to $3,000 in certain cases, or $3,600 for children under age 6; expand eligibility for the earned income tax credit; and extend credits to reimburse employers for workers' paid sick leave, among other tax changes.

House Republicans faulted Democrats for the speed in which the legislation is moving through Congress. They said the bill is too large, packed with unnecessary provisions and includes funding that won't be spent this year.

"There is a difference between acting quickly and decisively and acting recklessly and rashly," Rep. Trent Kelly, R-Miss., said during the Budget Committee hearing. "In this case, we are acting recklessly. ... This is being rammed through."

--Additional reporting by Dave Simpson. Editing by Vincent Sherry. 

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