The US House of Representatives has approved in a late-night vote President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus aid bill, as Democrats who control the chamber steered the sweeping measure towards approval.
The bill cleared the House on a party-line vote of 219 to 212 early on Saturday.
That ships the measure to the Senate, where Democrats seem bent on resuscitating their minimum wage push and fights could erupt over state aid and other issues.
Earlier, the House Rules Committee turned back many Republican attempts to modify the package and sent it to the House floor for debate.
Democrats said the package was needed to fight a pandemic that has killed more than 500,000 Americans and thrown millions out of work, while Republicans criticised it as too expensive.
The measure would pay for vaccines and medical supplies and send a new round of emergency financial aid to households, small businesses and state and local governments.
Democrats aimed to get the bill for Biden to sign into law before mid-March, when enhanced unemployment benefits and some other types of aid are due to expire.
But their path has been complicated by the Senate’s rules expert, who said on Thursday that they cannot include an increase in the minimum wage to $15 per hour in the package.
Minimum wage debate
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had predicted the bill would pass Congress with or without the increase, but said Democrats would not give up on the matter.
“We will not stop until we very soon pass the $15 minimum wage,” she said at a news conference.
Republicans who have broadly backed previous COVID-19 spending said another $1.9 trillion is simply too much. The White House and some economists have argued a big package is needed to revive the world’s largest economy.
Opinion polls have found broad public support for the package.
“The only place this is a partisan issue is here in Washington,” said Democratic Representative Jim McGovern in debate in the House Rules Committee. “We are here because people are hurting and communities are struggling.”
Pelosi counted 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.
Biden is expected to give remarks on Saturday morning on the stimulus plan. (AlJazeera)