House Democrats gave final approval Friday to a new federal budget for fiscal year 2021, moving with striking speed on a version that cleared the Senate just hours earlier.
With the budget now in hand, committees in both chambers can begin to write the details of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package, and have cleared the way to eventual approval without needing any Republican support.
Democrats pushed the budget through both the House and Senate this week, just two weeks after taking control of the upper chamber and installing Mr. Biden in the White House. Using the budget process circumvents a GOP filibuster.
The power play move angered Republicans, who said four coronavirus relief bills, totaling $4 trillion, were approved in a bipartisan fashion last year.
But Democrats said want to capitalize on the moment, arguing that too many people are still struggling in the virus-ravaged economy and a federal hand is needed. They also see a chance to check off some major liberal wish-list items they would be hard-pressed to pass through the normal legislative process.
“As we all know, a budget is a statement of our values. Our work to crush the coronavirus and deliver relief to the American people is urgent and of the highest priority,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a letter to fellow Democrats. “With this budget resolution, we have taken a giant step to save lives and livelihoods.”
The document Congress has approved is a skeleton budget. Congress already wrote spending bills for the whole year, so the purpose of this new budget is to create enough space to pass the pandemic bill without having to face a GOP filibuster.
Republicans did manage to insert some of their priorities into the budget during a 15-hour voting marathon in the Senate, though those additions aren’t binding.
Among them was a proposal to prevent illegal immigrants from claiming stimulus checks, and delaying any minimum wage increase while the pandemic is still raging.
Republicans also managed to get several key energy amendments approved, such as backing the Keystone XL pipeline, but Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer then pressured fellow Democrats into revoking those amendments — again with the tie-breaking vote of Ms. Harris.
The document then went back to the House, which didn’t vote specifically to pass it, but instead voted 219-209 to pass a parliamentary rule that “deemed” the budget approved.
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