The House of Representatives approved the $1.9 trillion stimulus package Wednesday, paving the way for most Americans to receive another round of direct payments, and for President Joe Biden's first major legislative win.
Rep. Katherine Clark, who serves as assistant House speaker, told Boston Public Radio Wednesday morning that Democrats are "united and excited" about the bill, which later passed in a 220-211 vote and now goes to Biden's desk for his signature.
"It is transformative, and it is one of those opportunities that we can not only help [alleviate] the suffering and the loss and the anxiety from this pandemic — and it is a year that seems far longer than a year — but it is also a chance to make progress towards addressing income inequality, to lifting 12 million children out of poverty."
Democrats in the Senate had to make some concessions — like removing a proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour and lowering the weekly unemployment benefits to $300 — to mantain party support.
The final bill still includes $1,400 direct payment checks to most Americans, and another major legislative win for Democrats: An expanded child tax credit.
The expanded credit will provide parents with $3,000 for every child aged 6 to 17 and $3,600 for every child under age 6 (up from $2,000 per dependent child up to age 16). Clark said there is a commitment among Democrats to make that expanded credit permanent, but also noted that it's already more permanent than some of the other measures in the bill.
"Once something is in the tax code, which it will be when Joe Biden signs this bill, it is very difficult to get out," she said.
Not a single Republican in the Senate or House voted for the bill. Clark drew a parallel to the Trump-era tax cuts that passed without a single Democratic vote in 2017.
"It is not lost on me that in 2017 we were faced with almost the exact sticker amount of $1.9 trillion, but it was for tax cuts that benefited the very wealthy, and there is no talk of making those temprorary or impermanent," she said. "And we have to do the same for children and families around this country and around the commonwealth."
Clark cited the stark rise in child poverty and hunger over the past year, which she said will have lasting impacts.
"We can do better than the food lines we've seen," she said.
Clark also discussed Massachusetts' COVID-19 response and vaccine rollout. She has previously called for Gov. Charlie Baker to establish a centralized pre-registration process for vaccines. She said the state's website, while improved, is still "fragmented."
"I do think things are improving, but it doesn't take away that this vaccine rollout was one of the things we really did have control [over]," she said. "First of all, we had plans in place already that were scrapped and we went in a different direction ... Part of the frustration we hear every single day in my office from people across my district is that they just are spending hours trying to get the answer from a website, and it feels like some twisted version of the Hunger Games."
Original story here.