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Third stimulus check: House passes Biden's $1.9 trillion aid bill

The House of Representatives approved the American Rescue Plan on Saturday but the stimulus bill must pass Senate scrutiny before it is signed into law.

Joe Biden speaks after visiting a FEMA Covid-19 vaccination facility at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas on February 26, 2021.

The US House of Representatives on Saturday voted 219-212 in favour of President Joe Biden's American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion economic relief bill that includes a third round of stimulus checks. The aid plan, which also covers federal unemployment benefits, child tax credits and raising the minumum wage from $7.25 to $15 over the next five years, received the backing of the Ways and Means Committee earlier in February when $940 billion of federal spending on Biden's flagship stimulus legislation was approved.

Biden had promised to pass a fresh round of stimulus payments to US households as soon as he entered office but the lack of bipartisan support for his proposal and the Senate trial of former President Donald Trump disrupted his plan.

The $1,400 stimulus checks will be the largest to date when they are eventually signed into law by Biden, but before that they must pass both Houses of Congress. The bill will now pass to the Senate, which is split 50-50 along party lines with 48 Democrats and two independent seats.

Biden's Stimulus bill clears House vote

The American Rescue Plan began life in Congress in the House of Representatives, where it had to clear a number of House Committees before it can move to the floor of the chamber for a vote.

It was first sent to the House Ways and Means Committee, where members voted on a portion of the package which includes the $1,400 stimulus check payments. In a 24-18 party lines vote the proposal was passed, which allows Biden to repurpose tax revenue to pay for the $1.9 trillion package.

The bill then went to the House Budget Committee, which also voted to pass the package along party lines. The approval from the Budget Committee was particularly crucial because it allows the Democrats to use reconciliation to pass the bill in the Senate.

Last Wednesday the House Rules Committee released a new legislative text of the American Rescue Plan, which includes additional measures that bring the overall cost of the bill over the $1.9 trillion previously agreed. However, as that is the amount agreed, elements will have to be hastily cut from the package to ensure that reconciliation can be used to push it through.

American Rescue Plan set for Senate vote

The House vote was expected to be comfortable for the Democrats, who required just a simple majority to get the legislation passed. However, despite holding a ten-seat majority, Kurt Schrader of Oregon and Jared Golden of Maine went against party lines.

The bill will now move to the Senate where the margin of error is much tighter. The 100-seat chamber is split evenly with 50 Senators each forming the Majority and Minority, but the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris gives the Democrats a slender advantage.

However that does mean that in order for Biden's plan to be pushed through, every single Democrat and independent in the Senate would be required to vote in favour, which means they may have to shed some provisions from the package. For example Sen. Joe Manchin has already voiced his concern about the proposed minimum wage rise to $15 per hour, which may not make it to the final bill.

Keep up to date with the latest developments on the American Rescue Plan.