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Congress Clears $1.9 Trillion Aid Bill, Sending It to Biden

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Federal unemployment payments of $300 per week will be extended through Sept. 6, and up to $10,200 of jobless aid from last year will be tax-free for households with incomes below $150,000. The bill also increases child tax credits, providing $300 per child age 5 and younger and $250 per child ages 6 to 17.

The practical and political realities that shaped the measure, including the strict rules of reconciliation and Democrats’ razor-thin majorities, produced a narrower bill than Mr. Biden had initially proposed and some temporary provisions that his party will have to fight to preserve.

One is the expansion of the child tax credit. Families will lose it in a year unless Congress agrees to extend it or make it permanent, but Democrats have said they believe Republicans will be unwilling to take away the benefit and plunge millions of children into poverty.

The legislation also contains a substantial, though temporary, expansion of health care subsidies that could slash monthly insurance payments for those purchasing coverage under the Affordable Care Act. And for six months, from April 1 until Sept. 30, the measure will fully cover so-called COBRA health insurance costs for people who have lost a job or had their hours cut and buy coverage from their former employer.

Democrats were also forced to remove an increase in the federal minimum wage, which ran afoul of the budget rules, frustrating progressives. Democrats could not hold their own members together in the Senate to try to revive the measure, which would have raised the wage to $15 by 2025.

In negotiations with conservative-leaning members in their ranks, Democrats also trimmed eligibility for the direct payments and curtailed jobless payments. Still, progressive lawmakers rallied around the final package, even as they vowed to keep fighting to enact more ambitious measures.

“I proudly supported the American Rescue Plan on the floor of the House of Representatives today, and our work is unfinished,” Representative Ayanna S. Pressley, Democrat of Massachusetts, said in a statement. “We must keep fighting for policies that meet the scale and scope of this crisis and set us on a pathway to a just and equitable long-term recovery.”

Jim Tankersley contributed reporting.

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Janice Hill

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