The people of the United States scored an important legislative victory last night when the House of Representatives voted to transmit the Biden-Harris administration’s American Rescue Plan to the United States Senate, setting up a debate in the evenly-divided chamber about the need for investment to help communities recover from the devastating impacts of COVID-19.
The vote on final passage was two hundred and nineteen to two hundred and twelve. All Republicans voted nay, and all but two Democrats voted aye.
Voting Aye: Democratic Representatives Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Pramila Jayapal, Kim Schrier, Adam Smith, Marilyn Strickland (WA), Suzanne Bonamici, Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio (OR)
Voting Nay: Republican Representatives Jaime Herrera Beutler, Dan Newhouse, Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA), Cliff Bentz (OR), Russ Fulcher and Mike Simpson (ID), Matt Rosendale (MT), Don Young (AK); Democratic Representative Kurt Schrader (OR)
Oregon’s Kurt Schrader was one of just two Democratic representatives to vote no, the other being Maine’s Jared Golden. Both used a set of Republican talking points in a lame attempt to explain their opposition.
“The time for decisive action is long overdue,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“President Biden’s American Rescue Plan is that decisive action. Tonight, Congress is taking action to crush the virus with a national vaccination program, robust testing, tracing and treatment, more PPE and combating health disparities affecting communities of color disproportionately.”
“Economists overwhelmingly support this targeted action,” the Speaker noted. “Earlier this month, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell [a Trump appointee] reported that the real unemployment rate is ten percent, matching the depths of the worst point of the Great Recession. As he said, ‘We are still very far from a strong labor market whose benefits are broadly shared.’”
“For a few weeks now, an overwhelming percentage of the American public has made it clear that they support my American Rescue Plan,” said Biden. “And the House of Representatives took the first step toward making it a reality.”
“And I want to thank — and I called her just a few moments ago — Nancy Pelosi for her extraordinary — Speaker Pelosi — for her extraordinary leadership and all those who supported our plan. And with their vote, we are one step closer to vaccinating the nation. We are one step closer to putting $1,400 in the pockets of Americans. We are one step closer to extending unemployment benefits for millions of Americans who are shortly going to lose them.”
“We’re one step closer to helping millions of Americans feed their families and keep a roof over their head. We’re one step closer to getting our kids safely back in school. And we’re one step closer to getting state and local governments the money they need to prevent massive layoffs for essential workers.”
“Now the bill moves to the United States Senate, where I hope it will receive quick action. I have — we have — no time to waste,” the President added.
“If we act now — decisively, quickly, and boldly — we can finally get ahead of this virus. We can finally get our economy moving again. The people of this country have suffered far too much for too long. We need to relieve that suffering. The American Rescue Plan does just that: It relieves the suffering.”
“And it’s time to act.”
DNC Chair Jaime Harrison congratulated the House for taking action.
“While Republicans in Congress try to play political games with people’s lives, Democrats have passed President Biden’s American Rescue Plan to provide people with the immediate relief they need to weather this crisis — including direct payments, expanded and extended unemployment benefits, and critical funding to help speed up vaccine distribution and reopen schools safely.”
“That’s what leadership looks like.”
“This critical legislation has support from Americans across the country and the political spectrum, and yet Republicans in Congress are trying to stand in the way. Make no mistake: Republicans who vote against this package are voting against putting checks in the hands of hardworking people who have bills to pay, businesses to run, and kids to feed. They need help. They need leadership. But only one party has shown the courage and compassion to provide it.”
Washington State’s Democratic U.S. Representatives all released statements explaining why they voted to pass the American Rescue Plan.
“My district, where the first known cases and deaths of COVID-19 were identified, has been combating this virus for over a year now. Our communities need more support and this legislation shows that relief is Congress’ top priority,” said Representative Suzan DelBene, D‑Washington, who represents NPI’s home congressional district, the 1st. (NPI is based in Redmond.) “With a pandemic still raging and a fragile economy, this bill meets the moment of this crisis to support our workers, families, small businesses, and public health response.”
“Washingtonians are hurting and need relief now,” said Representative Rick Larsen (D‑WA-02). “In my conversations with constituents and community leaders, I hear about tragic loss, economic anxiety and profound challenges. This comprehensive aid package gets more vaccines in arms, gives Washingtonians a long overdue raise, helps families put food on the table, enables working families to return to work, helps school districts safely reopen, and ensures communities can continue to pay essential workers and maintain essential services.”
“Over the last year, I’ve spoken with folks across our region who have lost their jobs, lost their small businesses, and lost loved ones due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve heard a lot of pain. People in our region need help. That’s why I’ve been outspoken in pushing Congress to take action so folks get the help they need to get through this,” said Representative Derek Kilmer (D‑WA-06).
“Families throughout Washington and across our country have spent months desperately trying to hang on during an unprecedented public health and economic crisis that has left millions struggling to put food on the table, keep the heat on, pay the rent, and withstand this devastation,” emphasized Representative Pramila Jayapal (D‑WA-07), the Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
“I am proud to have fought to ensure that this relief package puts money directly in people’s pockets by defeating restrictive efforts to lower survival check income thresholds and successfully including a $15 minimum wage,” Jayapal added.
“By passing aid that expands unemployment assistance, increases the child tax credit, crushes the virus by investing in vaccine distribution, supports childcare facilities and the families who depend on them, funds nutrition and rental assistance, helps small businesses, and provides robust state and local funding, we are sending a clear message to Americans everywhere that we see you, we hear you, and we are going to fight for you so our country gets through this together.”
“It has been almost a year to the day when our state had the first COVID cases and first death,” said Representative Kim Schrier (D‑WA-08), the first and only pediatrician serving in Congress. “The American people need help. And they needed it a long time ago. We need bold action to get our economy reopened, children back into classrooms, and every American vaccinated. This bill meets the moment and charts our path out of the pandemic.”
“Last week, the United States reached the solemn milestone of 500,000 lives lost to COVID-19,” observed Representative Adam Smith (D‑WA-09). “The dire health impact of the pandemic has been followed by enormous ongoing economic consequences for individuals, families, and businesses.”
“Amidst this suffering, I believe there is finally reason for optimism with vaccine distribution expanding and disease prevalence falling. The American Rescue Plan passed in the House is enormously important to continue this progress and is crucial to help combat the virus, get our children back in the classroom safely, ramp up equitable vaccine distribution, extend and expand unemployment insurance, and provide immediate economic relief for families.”
“I proudly voted for the American Rescue Plan, which includes the vital injection of rescue aid for state, local, and tribal governments that I fought for, because American families need our help,” said Representative Marilyn Strickland (D‑WA-10). “This is a rescue operation — and this crucial relief will keep our first responders, frontline health workers, and others safely on the job, ensure vital services are not cut off, and keep communities across the South Sound running.”
“Washington families’ lives and livelihoods have been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic and economic crisis,” Strickland added.
“The South Sound cannot afford further delay, and President Biden’s bold, strategic relief package delivers the long-overdue resources needed to meet the needs of Washington communities and families across the country. With tens of millions of Americans infected, more than half a million lives lost, millions more unemployed and food and housing insecure, the time for action is now.”
NPI strongly supports passage of the American Rescue Plan.
It is imperative that we learn from the Obama years and not repeat the mistake of under-investing to address the incredible damage that the coronavirus pandemic has caused to our families and communities. This is a time for bold investment. An even larger package would have been appropriate, but this is a suitable initial set of appropriations for Congress to send to President Joe Biden’s desk.