On March 10, House Democrats approved the $1.9 trillion spending package under budget reconciliation in a 220-211 vote, handing President Biden his first major legislative win in the new administration. While Democrats have focused on the bill’s relief efforts, including direct payments to individuals, rental assistance, expansion of the child tax credit, extension of unemployment insurance, testing and tracing of COVID-19 infections and funding for the distribution of vaccines throughout the country, Republicans have criticized the bill for its high price tag, lack of targeted response to the immediate needs of Americans and the economy, and the inclusion of hundreds of billions of dollars to support a federal bailout of distressed pension plans and local and state governments.
The package also failed to include limited liability protections for businesses operating during the COVID-19 pandemic. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called liability protections a red line for Republicans in Congress, and ABC has continued to advocate for liability protections in COVID-19 relief legislation to ensure construction businesses are protected from frivolous, costly lawsuits.
With passage of this bill, the federal government’s COVID-19 response now totals $5.5 trillion. President Biden is set to tout his legislative victory in a prime-time address on March 11 and a national tour along with the first lady, vice president and other White House officials to highlight the bill’s benefits for Americans, hoping to boost its popularity.