House committee approves $1,400 direct payment as stimulus bill moves toward House vote

The House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday approved stimulus plan measures that total more than $900 billion in benefits, including $1,400 stimulus payments to millions of Americans, as part of a COVID-19 relief package that is moving its way through the House towards a vote in a couple of weeks.

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The measure approved by the committee is the first step in getting a direct payment, and one of several parts of the proposed $1.9 trillion package that will be combined to create the next stimulus bill.

Nine House committees are writing portions of the relief bill. The various parts of the bill will be combined into one bill and reviewed by the House Rules Committee then brought before the full House for a vote.

The measures voted on Thursday by the House committee will cost $940 billion. They passed the committee on a 24-18 party-line vote.

According to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the full stimulus bill will be voted on by the full House during the week of Feb. 22.

Pelosi said Thursday that she expects the House to approve the relief plan “by the end of February so we can send it to the president’s desk before unemployment benefits expire.” The federal unemployment benefit, passed as the COVID-19 pandemic was declared last March, was extended twice last year and is set to expire on March 14.

The measure passed by the Ways and Means panel would send the full sum of the $1,400 direct payment to individuals who make up to $75,000, head of households who make up to $112,000 and couples who earn up to $150,000.

Payments would decrease as income levels rise, and individuals earning more than $100,000 and couples making more than $200,000 would not receive a payment.

Parents will also receive $1,400 per child, including a payment for college students who were not included in previous payments.

The Way and Means Committee also voted to expand tax credits for those paying for care for children.

The new child care credit would call for giving families $3,600 per child under age 6, and $3,000 per child for older minors up to those age 17. The amount would be divided over a year and would begin as monthly payments in July.

The tax credit is usually taken on income tax returns, but the bill would increase the credit from its current amount of $2,000 and would allow it to be doled out through the year instead of waiting for the credit at tax time.

“For families, monthly payments make a big difference because they have money when they need it,” Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Washington, said in an interview with CNBC.com last week.

Republicans have chided Democrats over the cost of the nearly $2 trillion bill, saying the bill is “rushed,” and it won’t receive bipartisan support.

“Big doesn’t necessarily mean good,” said Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio.

Republican Kevin Brady, Texas, warned that parts of the bill will do more damage to the economy than good.

“I don’t know if the White House knows this, but you’re supposed to be creating jobs, not killing them,” said Brady, the top Republican on the Ways and Means Committee.

“Whatever this rushed, partisan, special interest ‘stimulus’ package does, it comes with no bipartisan discussion, no opportunity for finding common ground.”

Democrats are crafting the measures under reconciliation, a process that moves final passage of the bill to a simple majority vote in the Senate, instead of a two-thirds vote required for most other legislation.

The Senate has 50 Republicans and 48 Democrats, plus two Independents who vote with the Democrats, meaning the chamber is evenly split. Vice President Kamala Harris has the authority to cast any tie-breaking vote, meaning the bill is expected to pass once it gets to the Senate.