WASHINGTON – Minnesota's U.S. House members split along party lines Wednesday on the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.
Supporters of the legislation see it as a major legislative achievement in the early days of Democrat Joe Biden's presidency. Minnesota's two senators and four House Democrats all voted in favor of the latest stimulus package.
"Look, it's not perfect. I haven't voted on a perfect bill since I've been in Congress," Democratic U.S. Rep. Angie Craig said in an interview shortly before the vote. "But it's going to do an awful lot of good to help Minnesotans recover."
All four GOP members of the Minnesota House delegation opposed the bill that was sent to Biden on a 220-211 vote Wednesday afternoon.
"Despite President Biden's promise to work across the aisle and bring our country out of this pandemic, he has chosen to side with Speaker Pelosi in an entirely partisan fashion to advance a political agenda," Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer said in a statement.
The package includes $1,400 payments to individuals who qualify based on income, and billions of dollars to boost vaccination and public health efforts. Democrats have trumpeted the wide-ranging funding effort as a big help to the public at this stage of the pandemic, alongside other features such as an increased child tax credit this year, an extension of federal unemployment benefits and further aid for renters and homeowners.
Congressional projections released this week show Minnesota is estimated to get close to $4.9 billion from the legislation's state and local aid portion. Craig described her support as "a values vote," and called the continued Republican opposition in Congress disappointing.
"It's a consequential piece of legislation and it would have been a real miss if we had not provided for state and local funding in this bill," Craig said.
The sprawling bill rankled Republicans, who found plenty of spending in it that they opposed.
To U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber, there were "some good things in this package," such as the money for vaccine distribution. But there was plenty of other spending the Eighth District Republican deemed "really egregious," speaking after he voted against the bill.
"The first five COVID bills were bipartisan," Stauber said. "This was the first purely partisan relief package."
Progressive Democrats did signal some unhappiness before Wednesday's vote, pointing to changes made on the Senate side in order to pass with the party's slim majority control in that chamber. Some on the left were frustrated after a ruling from the Senate parliamentarian that led to the removal of a section that would have boosted the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025.
That wasn't enough to sink the legislation with key figures like U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, who was among those signaling unhappiness with the Senate's changes. The Minnesota Democrat said in a statement before the vote that "the Senate bill scaled back eligibility for unemployment benefits and reduced thresholds for payments, cutting off thousands of Minnesotans."
But the package still had plenty Omar deemed worth championing, even with those changes.
"It remains one of the boldest pieces of economic legislation in generations," she said in the statement.
Hunter Woodall • 612-673-4559