Democrats pushed President Joe Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion economic stimulus package through the House early Saturday despite progressives’ fears about the future of a minimum wage hike included in the measure.

The US bailout, which would allow payments of up to $ 1,400 per person to most Americans, would provide no new direct payments to farmers, but there is $ 16.1 billion in farm and food provisions approved by the House Agriculture Committee. The House passed Bill 219-212 around 2 a.m. with just two Democrats breaking party ranks to oppose the measure, Jared Golden of Maine and Kurt Schrader of Oregon. No Republican voted for.

Among other things, the bill would provide $ 5 billion in aid to minority farmers, while $ 3.6 billion is earmarked for financing commodity purchases and providing grants and loans to farmers. processors, farmers’ markets, producers and organizations to cover needs such as personal protective equipment for workers. and retooling operations to “maintain and improve the resilience of the food and agricultural supply chain”.

The most controversial of the agricultural arrangements would repay direct and guaranteed USDA loans held by minority farmers and ranchers. They would get payments equivalent to 120% of the debt to repay the loans and pay the associated taxes.

Republicans argued the provision would be unfair and had not been properly vetted, but the House Rules Committee on Friday refused to allow debate on any GOP amendment to the bill, including a proposed pair. by Austin Scott, R-Ga., who was targeting the loan. problem. Debt relief would have been extended to white women. Another would have made members of Congress ineligible.

Rep. David Scott, a Democrat from Georgia who is the first black chair of the House Ag Committee, said the provision is necessary to address the legacy of discrimination against minority producers and ultimately increase the number of black farmers. “No one has earned the right to be able to have this discrimination removed like (as much as) black farmers,” Scott told the rules committee at its one-day meeting on the GOP amendments. “We were the pioneer farmers, and not only that, we did it for free under the whip of the slave master.”

Scott noted that helping the food supply chain in the stimulus bill would also benefit workers of color.

Several large farm groups supported the debt relief provision, including the National Council of Agricultural Cooperatives, the National Farmers Union, the Organic Trade Association and the National Federation of Milk Producers.

Before the vote on the floor, Democratic leaders withdrawn from the bill a GOP amendment, adopted in committee, it would have allocated money to compensate Iowa growers who lost crops because of last summer’s derecho. The amendment was added to the bill when Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, broke party ranks in support of it.

The stimulus package would also extend the temporary 15% increase in supplementary nutrition assistance program benefits until September, and additional provisions of $ 6.6 billion are planned to expand nutrition assistance. children.

To address the connectivity challenges that plagued rural areas and schools during the pandemic, the bill would create a $ 7.6 billion fund to help schools and libraries pay for devices, internet service and books. Wifi access points.

The legislation now goes to the Senate, where minimum wage is likely to continue to be a priority.

Democrats use the budget reconciliation process to get the bill through Congress so that the measure does not need a GOP vote to go through the Senate, but it also limits the issues the bill can address, and the Senate parliamentarian ruled out of order a provision raising the federal minimum wage to $ 15 an hour.

As an alternative, Senate Finance and Budget Committee Chairs Ron Wyden, D-Ore., And Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Respectively, propose to impose a penalty on companies that do not pay workers enough and offer grants to small business owners that increase wages.

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“If you’re a single mom who works two minimum wage jobs for $ 7.25 an hour in Georgia or North Carolina, it’s heartwarming to know that the majority support for increasing the minimum wage does not ‘makes no sense because of the obscure Senate rules, “Wyden said.

A senior American Chamber of Commerce official said on Friday he believed a compromise could be found on a “fair” increase in the minimum wage. House policy director Neil Bradley said in a tweet that it was time for progressives to “focus on a reasonable compromise”.

Farms are generally exempt from federal minimum wage and overtime requirements.

The stimulus package includes very popular assistance for vaccines and tests as well as assistance to schools, local governments and individuals, including an extension of improved unemployment benefits and an increase in the child tax credit to $ 3,000 per child, or $ 3,600 for a child under 6.

All adults and their dependents, including adult dependents, would be eligible for the stimulus payments of $ 1,400 per person that the bill would trigger, but the amounts would be gradually reduced after $ 75,000 of adjusted gross income. for an individual or $ 150,000 for a married couple. A couple with over $ 200,000 in AGI would receive nothing.

Republicans argued that much of the spending was unnecessary and unrelated to the pandemic. “They are so embarrassed by all the non-COVID trash in their bill that they are blocking it in the middle of the night,” said GOP House Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Tweeter Friday night.


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