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GOP Rallies Against Dems Virus Package 02/25 06:11

   Republicans rallied solidly against Democrats' proposed $1.9 trillion 
COVID-19 relief bill as lawmakers awaited a decision by the Senate's 
parliamentarian that could bolster or potentially kill a pivotal provision 
hiking the federal minimum wage.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republicans rallied solidly against Democrats' proposed 
$1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill as lawmakers awaited a decision by the 
Senate's parliamentarian that could bolster or potentially kill a pivotal 
provision hiking the federal minimum wage.

   Despite their paper-thin congressional majorities, Democratic leaders were 
poised to push the sweeping package through the House on Friday. They were 
hoping the Senate, where changes seem likely, would follow quickly enough to 
have legislation on President Joe Biden's desk by mid-March.

   By late Wednesday, not one Republican in either chamber had publicly said he 
or she would back the legislation. GOP leaders were honing attacks on the 
package as a job killer that does too little to reopen schools or businesses 
shuttered for the coronavirus pandemic and that was not only wasteful but also 
even unscrupulous.

   "I haven't seen a Republican yet that's found something in there that they 
agree with," said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. "I think all 
Republicans believe in three simple things: They want a bill that puts us back 
to work, back to school and back to health. This bill is too costly, too 
corrupt and too liberal."

   The hardening opposition suggested that Biden's first major legislative 
initiative could encounter unanimous GOP opposition. That was a counterpoint to 
the new president's refrain during his campaign about bringing the country 
together and a replay of the Republican wall that new President Barack Obama 
encountered in 2009 and most of his administration.

   Democrats showed no signs of backing down, citing the assistance the measure 
would spread to people, businesses and state and local governments.

   "If congressional Republicans want to oppose all that, my response is: Good 
luck," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor.

   By Wednesday evening, the most suspense was over a decision anticipated from 
Elizabeth MacDonough, the Senate's nonpartisan arbiter of its rules, that 
promised enormous political and legislative consequences.

   The relief bill includes a provision that over five years would hike the 
federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. The parliamentarian is involved because 
Democrats are pushing the overall $1.9 trillion measure through Congress under 
special rules that will let them avoid a Senate filibuster by Republicans.

   Those same rules prohibit provisions with only an "incidental" impact on the 
federal budget because they are chiefly driven by other policy purposes. The 
parliamentarian decides if a provision passes that test.

   With Republicans strongly against a minimum wage increase, the only way for 
it to survive is by including it in a filibuster-proof bill like the COVID-19 
relief measure. To end a filibuster, Democrats would need 60 votes, an 
impossibility for them in the evenly divided 50-50 Senate.

   If the parliamentarian decides the minimum wage provision can remain in the 
bill, it would be a major boost for its proponents. But there would be no 
guarantee the measure would survive because some moderates oppose it or want it 
dialed back. That suggests grueling bargaining on its final form would lie 
ahead.

   A decision by the parliamentarian that the minimum wage hike must fall from 
the bill could be fatal, but not necessarily. Democrats could employ a rarely 
used procedural move to muscle the minimum wage provision into the bill with 
just 51 votes anyway, but it was unclear if they could muster enough support to 
do that.

   The minimum wage has stood at $7.25 since 2009. Winning the increase is a 
top priority for progressives at a time when Democrats control Congress and the 
White House.

   The overall bill would provide millions of Americans with $1,400 direct 
payments to help them weather the pandemic that's stalled much of the economy 
for a year and killed half a million people. It contains billions of dollars 
for vaccines and COVID-19 testing, schools, state and local governments and 
emergency jobless benefits while providing tax cuts or payments for many 
families with children.

   In a sign of hardball politics ahead, top Republicans suggested that House 
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Schumer squeezed money into the bill for 
their own states.

   McCarthy said the bill had $100 million to help extend the San Francisco 
area's BART commuter rail system south to San Jose. That project was approved 
previously by the Trump administration and is not in Pelosi's San Francisco 
district, a top Democratic aide said.

   McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., suggested 
Schumer had won money for a bridge connecting upstate New York to Canada. A 
senior Democratic aide said the bill contains $1.5 million for the bridge, 
which is in the district of Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y. The aide said it was 
requested in 2020 by the Trump administration's Transportation Department, 
which was headed by Elaine Chao, McConnell's wife.

 
 
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