U.S. House readies final vote on Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 package

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives could approve the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill as early as Tuesday, with a vote allowing the Democratic president to sign the legislation into law later this week.

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Approval of the package, which is one of the biggest U.S. anti-poverty measures since the 1960s, would give Biden and the Democrats who control Congress a major legislative victory less than two months into his presidency.

“It’s really just a matter of paperwork. But we are going to have a vote as soon as we can,” Democratic Representative Katherine Clark, the assistant House speaker, told CNN.

The Senate, where Democrats have effective control, passed its version of the bill on Saturday after a marathon overnight session. The upper chamber of Congress eliminated or pared back some provisions in an original House bill, including an increase in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Now that the bill has passed the Senate, it must be approved again by the House before it can make its way to Biden’s desk.

The House was still awaiting the Senate version late on Monday. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters that lawmakers would “take it up Wednesday morning at the latest.”

Democrats hold a very narrow majority in the House, meaning they cannot withstand many votes by their members against the bill.

The first version of the bill passed the House without a single Republican vote. Two moderate Democrats joined Republicans in voting against that version. One of them, Representative Kurt Schrader of Oregon, said on Monday he would now vote for the bill with the Senate changes.

“My concerns remain on the size and scope of this bill but believe the Senate changes provide meaningful relief for Oregonians in need,” Schrader wrote in a post on Facebook.

Republicans, who broadly supported economic relief early in the coronavirus pandemic, have criticized the price tag of the Biden relief package.

Some progressives in the House have criticized the Senate’s changes. But Representative Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat who heads the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told reporters she thought members of her group would back the legislation.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki praised the legislation at a news conference on Monday, saying that while there were some changes on the margins, it represented the “core” of what Biden originally proposed.

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