U.S. House panel votes to advance 1.9 trln COVID-19 relief package

2021-02-23 02:36:31 GMT2021-02-23 10:36:31(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

WASHINGTON, Feb. 22 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. House Budget Committee on Monday voted to move forward President Joe Biden's 1.9-trillion-U.S.-dollar COVID-19 relief package, setting up a vote in the full House later this week.

The House panel approved the relief package, also known as the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, by a vote of 19-16 largely along party lines.

"We are in a race against time. Aggressive, bold action is needed before our nation is more deeply and permanently scarred by the human and economic costs of inaction," John Yarmuth, chairman of the House Budget Committee and a Democrat from Kentucky, said Monday before the vote.

"We aren't going to wait. We are going to pass this legislation and we are going to turn this pandemic and economic crisis around," Yarmuth said.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Monday that he planned to bring this bill to the House floor later this week to provide the American people with needed relief.

"I hope Republicans will join us in this effort and make it a bipartisan step forward. That would be to the benefit of our country, to its public health, and to its economic recovery," Hoyer said in a statement.

However, many Republicans have questioned the need for another massive relief package as lawmakers have passed nearly 4 trillion dollars in relief efforts since the pandemic began.

"Let's be serious about this, this bill replaces the bipartisan formula used for state and local funding used in the previous 5 COVID bills to reward the worst acting Governors during this pandemic," Jason Smith, the top Republican on the House Budget Committee, tweeted Monday.

While COVID-19 cases in the United States have been falling sharply in recent weeks, Biden administration officials believed that a large relief package is still necessary to get the economy back to full strength.

"The greater risk is of scarring the people, having this pandemic take a permanent lifelong toll on their lives and livelihoods," U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a recent interview with CNBC.

"We think it's very important to have a big package (that) addresses the pain this has caused," Yellen said.

In a letter to the Senate Democratic Caucus last week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the upper chamber is on track to send the 1.9-trillion-dollar relief package to the president's desk before the March 14 expiration of unemployment insurance benefits.