The U.S. House Budget Committee approved Democrats’ $1.9 trillion COVID-19 financial relief package Monday with a vote of 19-16. The measure now heads to the full House.
The 591-page proposal includes one-time $1,400 payments and an incremental minimum wage hike to $15 an hour.
Rep. John Yarmuth, the committee's Democratic chairman, said it was urgent to pass the measure because the novel coronavirus is evolving and health officials are bracing for a new wave of infections.
"We are in a race against time," Yarmuth said. "Aggressive, bold action is need before our nation is more deeply and permanently scarred by the human and economic cost of inaction."
Rep. Jason Smith, the committee’s ranking Republican, said that funding for state and local governments in the legislation will reward lockdowns while the minimum wage provision would make it harder for the least-educated workers and the disabled to find employment.
"Let's be real, less than 9% of the spending in this bill goes to crushing the COVID virus and putting shots in people’s arms," Smith said.
The bill would provide one-time $1,400 payments to millions of low- and middle-income people, increase child tax credits that could be paid in advance and monthly and provide extra $400 weekly federal unemployment benefits through August.
It would also provide hundreds of billions of dollars for state and local governments, shuttered schools, COVID-19 vaccines and testing and struggling airlines, restaurants and other businesses.
The fate of Biden’s minimum wage proposal remains hazy. Facing resistance in Congress, the president has acknowledged that he will likely have to omit the measure and re-introduce it later as a separate bill.
Congress hasn't raised the minimum wage for more than 11 years — the longest gap between increases. The current $7.25 minimum took effect in 2009.
The overall relief bill, including the minimum wage boost, is expected to clear the House, and likely the Senate as well. But the minimum wage boost's fate is shakier in the Senate, where some Democratic senators have expressed possible opposition.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.