Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ American Rescue Plan is about to become law.
By a vote of two hundred and twenty to two hundred and eleven, the United States House of Representatives today voted to concur in the Senate amendments to H.R. 1319, vaulting the bill out of the United States Capitol and down Pennsylvania Avenue to Joe Biden’s desk in the West Wing of the White House.
The roll call from the Pacific Northwest was along party lines, as Oregon’s Kurt Schrader decided not to defect again on final passage, pronouncing himself satisfied with the amendments made by the United States Senate.
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, and Kurt Schrader (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)
Only one Democrat, Maine’s Jared Golden, voted no. All other Democrats voted yes. All of the Republicans voted no, except for one who did not vote.
“Today is an historic day,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “It is a day of fulfillment as the Democratic House passes the Biden American Rescue Plan, joining in President Biden’s promise to the American people: Help Is On The Way.”
“I encourage you to hold events lifting up the legislation to be a part of Democrats’ national message and to communicate directly to our constituents,” Pelosi told her caucus in an open letter. “A toolkit is being prepared to give guidance for how constituents can find information about the benefits of the American Rescue Plan in their lives. You may also want to prepare a franked mail or emailed newsletter to help its benefits be understood and enjoyed.”
“This legislation would not have been possible without the excellent work of the Chairs of our Committees of Jurisdiction, the intellectual resource of every Democratic Member and the tireless efforts of our staffs, as we meet the needs of the American people,” Pelosi’s letter added.
“I want to thank Speaker Pelosi and the House of Representatives for passing the bill that I will be signing into law shortly,” said President Joe Biden. “This bill represents a historic, historic victory for the American people. I look forward to signing it later this week. Everything in the American Rescue Plan address a real need.” Biden emphasized that the bill would boost vaccination efforts.
“Tomorrow night, I’m going, in primetime, to address the American people, to talk about what we’ve been through as a nation this past year,” the President added.
“But more importantly, I’m going to talk about what comes next. I’m going to launch the next phase of the COVID response and explain what we will do as a government and what we will ask of the American people.”
“There is light at the end of this dark tunnel of this past year. We cannot let our guard down now, or assume that a victory is inevitable.”
“It has been a year since our state had our first COVID cases,” said Representative Kim Schrier, D‑Washington, who represents the 8th District and is the first pediatrician to serve in Congress. “The American people need help. And they needed it a long time ago. This legislation is the bold action we need 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.”
The American Rescue Plan is one of the most consequential pieces of legislation ever to be approved by Congress. While it does not contain some provisions that our team at NPI wanted, like a minimum wage increase, it is nevertheless a huge win, and it’s something we can build upon. It is simply and beautifully named. Three words that properly evoke the progressive values that the Biden-Harris administration and Congress are now using to make decisions about our future. As I’ve written here before, I think George Lakoff would be proud.
While the legislation has a simple name, the text of the bill itself is not simple because it does so many good and important things. This legislation will deliver aid and assistance to American families in many different ways.
There’s direct relief in the form of $1,400 checks to tens of millions of Americans, of course, but there’s also money to help small businesses stay open, bring kids back to school, improve Internet connectivity, increase nutrition assistance benefits, and combat the virus through better testing and rapidly ramping up vaccination campaign. The American Rescue Plan is an investment — a serious, sorely needed investment. Unlike last year’s COVID relief bills, this bill is focused and targeted towards lower and middle income Americans and small businesses.
Arguably not since the Great Society has Congress passed a piece of legislation that does more for families and children than this bill. It isn’t a game changer, it’s a life changer. The passage of this bill shows what politics can and should be about: improving lives. Bettering the human condition. Bringing people together.
House and Senate Republicans had a chance to be a part of this and they all declined — every last one of them voted no. That was their choice.
Given their fealty to Donald Trump and to powerful interests like large corporations, it’s probably for the best that they refused to engage.
Public opinion research shows that plenty of Republican voters support this bill, as do many local Republican elected officials. To get Republican votes, President Joe Biden would have had to compromise on the principles this bill was built on. He would have had to go more than halfway (Republican senators like Susan Collins floated an alternative proposal that was about a third of the size.) The package would have been a fraction of the size, and wasted yet another crisis. That wasn’t a choice President Biden was willing to make. And thank goodness for that.
What’s important is not how the bill passed or whether it was bipartisan, but whether it meets the moment, and does what needs to be done.
ARP is primarily an appropriations bill that changes policy by making investments as opposed to a policy bill that also makes some investments (like the Patient Protection Act). It doesn’t need Republican votes to stick, or have an impact.
The investments, once made, are made, and can’t be repealed by Republicans.
The caveat that bears noting is that the investments aren’t permanent. The nutrition assistance benefits, for example, only go through September 30th.
But they can be renewed, or extended. And we can be sure that at the appropriate time, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer will bring legislation to renew them, and force Republicans to once again reveal whose side they are on. Democrats are likely to control Congress at least until January of 2023.
Republicans seem to think they are destined for success in the midterms given what usually happens to the president’s party in a midterm cycle.
However, they may be in for a rude surprise. Everything I’m seeing right now leads me to think that 2022 is going to be a most unusual midterm cycle that bucks historical norms. I don’t have a working crystal ball, so I can’t know the future. But I do know that the Biden-Harris American Rescue Plan is what I’ve been yearning to see Democrats in Congress pass for my whole adult life.
This is responsible governance. This is what lifting people up looks like. This is what voters have wanted out of the Democratic Party for a long, long, long time.
Our team looks forward to the bill signing for the American Rescue Plan.
Let’s get this done and begin the implementation.