In a letter to colleagues, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said that President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief measure would be passed swiftly and sent to the president's desk ahead of the March 14 expiration deadline for federal unemployment benefits.
The letter came on the same day that the House unveiled the full text of the bill, which includes, among other things, an increase of the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, an extension of federal unemployment benefits of $400, and direct checks of $1,400 to Americans making $75,000 or less anually.
“The Senate is on track to send a robust $1.9 trillion package to the president’s desk before the March 14 expiration of Unemployment Insurance benefits. We will meet this deadline,” Schumer wrote in his letter.
The House's bill – which includes more funding for vaccine distribution schools, and state and local governments – is expected to come to the floor for a full vote next week.
When asked if the bill would include an increase in federal minimum wage, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said, "Yes it will. We’re very proud of that."
Republican leaders are already urging their caucus to vote against the bill, signaling little, if any, GOP support. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) urged Republicans on Friday to vote "no" on what he called "Pelosi's Payoff to Progressives Act" in a note to House GOP members' offices.
"It's clear Democrats have no interest in approaching COVID relief in a timely and targeted fashion and are instead using the reconciliation process to jam through their liberal wish list agenda," Scalise's office wrote in the email.
"With millions of Americans unemployed and demanding relief to reopen schools and get people back to work, House Republican leadership is demanding its members vote against a bipartisan plan to help struggling Americans," Pelosi's office replied. "Americans need help. House Republicans don't care."
President Biden used his speech Friday at a Michigan Pfizer plant manfucaturing the COVID-19 vaccine to call on Republican lawmakers to approve his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, saying in part: "Let me ask them, what would they have me cut? What would they have me leave out?"
Despite his repeated demands that all $1.9 trillion in funding is needed to ensure Americans can survive the pandemic, Biden added that he is “open” to any GOP ideas to make the “plan cheaper.”
The House bill would provide hundreds of billions for state and local governments and to boost vaccination efforts, raise tax credits for children and increase unemployment benefits and federal health care assistance.
Biden campaigned on reuniting a country riven by President Donald Trump’s divisive four years. He met two weeks ago with 10 GOP senators to discuss the COVID-19 plan in a session that seemed cordial but has produced no visible movement.
Democrats say attempts to compromise with Republicans wasted time and resulted in a package that proved too small when President Barack Obama sought an economic stimulus compromise in 2009, his first year. They want to finish this initial Biden goal without any stumbles and before emergency jobless benefits expire on March 14.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.