Federal

Congress Passes $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Package, Texas Delegation Votes Along Partisan Lines

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a final $1.9 trillion spending package that will be sent to President Joe Biden’s desk for approval.

In a statement from the White House, Biden said that he would sign the bill into law on Friday.

H.R. 1319, titled the “American Rescue Plan Act,” passed along party lines in the House, save for one dissenting Maine Democrat.

House Republicans were unified in opposition to the bill with many GOP members citing massive spending unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic, despite broad support from many Republicans with the previous two major coronavirus agreements passed by Congress that had similar extraneous provisions.

Like the CARES Act that provided $1,200 checks to individuals and the more recent stimulus that sent out another round of $600 checks, H.R. 1319 will provide $1,400 to adults.

Qualified recipients are different than previous iterations, with higher earners cut off from receiving funds, but all dependents — even those over the age of 17, unlike previously — will qualify.

Based on an analysis from The Wall Street Journal, major portions of the spending in the new bill are accounted for with $410 billion in new stimulus checks for individuals, $360 billion for state and local governments, $246 billion to extend unemployment programs, and $176 billion for education.

States and territories are barred from using their funds “for deposit into any pension fund” and from using to “directly or indirectly offset a reduction in the net tax revenue of such State or territory” through tax cuts or delayed tax increases.

Funds to those government entities must be used in response to COVID-19 “or its negative economic impacts,” providing grants for “essential” workers, for government services “to the extent of the reduction in revenue” due to coronavirus responses, and for infrastructure investments including broadband.

In negotiations on the previous relief bill, Democrats called for state and local government funding, but that was ultimately axed along with the Republican-backed liability protections for businesses.

More coronavirus-specific expenditures in the bill include $50 billion for additional testing and contact tracing, $47 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund and coronavirus funeral expenses, $16 billion for vaccine distribution, and $10 billion for Defense Production Act purposes.

In addition to the immediate expenses of carrying out the act, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates that if policies in the bill are later extended, the costs could increase U.S. debt by $4 trillion.

“With less than 9% of the bill’s spending actually going towards combating the virus through health measures like vaccinations, testing, and contact tracing, the bill amounts to an epic bailout for longtime Democratic spending priorities,” said Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX-12), the ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee.

One year ago, Granger praised the $2 trillion CARES Act, though a similarly small percentage of that bill was directed specifically toward coronavirus-related expenses while larger portions were used to aid individuals, businesses, and state and local governments amidst widespread stay-at-home orders that dealt a sudden blow to the economy.

Likewise Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) — who both supported the CARES Act last year — voted against the new spending proposal.

“Instead of working in a bipartisan manner to open our schools, bring back small businesses, and help struggling Americans get back on their feet, Democrats chose to pander to their radical liberal base with partisan handouts,” said Cruz.

Texas Democrats, meanwhile, praised the passage of H.R. 1319.

“With our local leaders overcoming state failure after state failure, along with those from the Trump Administration, I am so pleased to announce that over half a billion dollars in reinforcements for their efforts are expected to home directly to our Central Texas governments from this rescue package,” said Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX-35).

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