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House Democrats pressure colleagues to release $350 million in federal COVID-19 relief aid


Democrats in the state House of Representatives are calling for the release of more than $350 million in federal COVID-19 relief aid.

House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Township) said the decision is in her Republican colleagues’ hands.

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“The money cannot be spent until we take a vote in the Capitol to bring it home to Michigan. And Republicans have not put that vote up on the board for us to vote yes to bring those dollars home,” Lasinski said.

The remaining December stimulus money has to be spent on ways to directly fight the spread of COVID-19, like testing, tracing, and vaccination efforts.

With Republicans solidly opposed and no votes to spare, Biden canceled a Wednesday trip to Chicago that was to focus on COVID-19 vaccinations so he could continue working on a deal, according to a White House official granted anonymity to discuss the planning.

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Democrats are poised to adjust the huge measure’s tax proposals and spending goals to meet the overall size demanded by party colleagues Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. The two say Biden’s plan is too big but are publicly quiet about a number they can live with.

The stakes are as high as ever as Biden and his party try to accomplish a giant legislative lift, promising a vast rewrite of the nation’s tax priorities and spending goals with an oh-so-slim majority in Congress.

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Aside from the $350 million to handle the COVID-19 response, the state has billions of federal COVID dollars left to address other needs.

The state Senate Appropriations Committee heard testimony this week on a plan to spend $2.5 billion of that money on water infrastructure.

There’s no set timeline for spending that money.

Applying pressure, progressives are unwavering so far in their refusal to go along with a vote expected Thursday on a companion bill, a $1 trillion public works measure that they say is too meager without Biden’s bigger package assured.

With all Republicans opposed to the big bill, Democratic leaders can’t spare a single vote in the 50-50 Senate, relying on Vice President Kamala Harris to break a tie to pass the eventual package.

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Tensions are flaring at the Capitol as the contours of Biden’s big agenda come into focus at the same time as a Democrat-Republican standoff over normally routine votes to fund the government and prevent a federal debt default.

For a second day on Tuesday, Senate Republicans rejected an effort to ease the nation’s debt limit to avoid a dangerous default on its payments for past bills.

Stay updated with more news here at the East County Gazette. 

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