Walgreens healthcare professionals in Evanston, Ill., Pass the COVID-19 Pfizer-BioNTec vaccine to each other on February 22, 2021 (CNS Photo / Kamil Krzaczynski, Reuters)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – Democratic members of the US Senate were hoping their version of a $ 1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package would be passed in the second week of March, so they could send it to President Joe Biden for his signing before unemployment aid expires in March. 14.

The measure includes $ 246 billion to extend unemployment benefits until August and increase the additional federal payment from $ 300 per week to $ 400.

The House, which approved its pandemic relief measure on February 27 and included that provision, will likely have to vote again on its bill to reconcile any changes in the Senate version.

Republicans have said they will oppose the legislation because it includes billions for programs and projects that do not immediately meet the needs of the pandemic. In the House, 212 members – all Republicans, plus two Democrats – voted against the bill. It was adopted with 219 votes.

The National Council of Nonprofits, whose members include Catholic Charities USA, said the US House bailout “would provide much needed help to many nonprofits on the front line to help people in their lives. communities across the country as we continue to face the challenges created. by the pandemic and the economic downturn. “

Catholic Charities USA, a network of 165 local Catholic charities across the country, said that as Congress and the Biden administration finalized priorities for the upcoming COVID-19 aid program, “we call for more funds are provided to ensure that people stay housed, fed and healthy. . “

Its own list of legislative priorities for a relief bill included ensuring “adequate resources to promote family and worker stability”; supporting the health care safety net; cap on the interest rate that can be charged for short-term loans; strengthen support for immigrants and refugees; and increased funding to prevent homelessness.

The CCUSA also called on lawmakers to keep “Hyde’s long-standing bipartisan amendment” as part of the bill.

However, ahead of the House vote – which took place at 2 a.m. EST – Rep. Chris Smith, of R-New Jersey, criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in brief remarks on the floor. , D-California, and the House Rules Committee. for refusing to allow a vote on an amendment to add wording to the bill “to ensure that taxpayers are not forced to subsidize abortion,” as the Hyde Amendment provides.

The amendment, passed each year for 45 years, prohibits federal taxpayers from directly funding abortion, except in cases of rape, incest or when a woman’s life is in danger.

The McMorris Rodgers-Foxx-Walorski Amendment – co-sponsored by 206 members – would have added Hyde language to the US bailout. Hyde language was also rejected as what became the final bill made its way through various House committees, said Smith and other pro-life national leaders.

“A radical departure from all previous COVID-19 relief laws – the bill before us today mandates taxpayer funding for abortion on demand,” Smith said. He and the other deputies authorized to address the plenary chamber had only one minute each to speak. Smith’s longer written statement on the matter was entered in the Congressional Register, along with his delivered remarks.

“Unborn babies need the President of the United States and members of Congress to be their friend and their advocate – not another powerful adversary,” he said.

Smith, a Catholic, who is co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, cited a letter that Biden, who is also a Catholic, “once wrote to his constituents to explain his support for laws against abortion funding by saying that it “ would protect the woman and her unborn child. … Those of us who oppose abortion should not be forced to pay for it. ”

“Most Americans agree – 58% according to the latest Marist poll,” added Smith, who was among 212 MPs who voted against the measure. All Republicans and two Democrats rejected the bill. It was adopted with 219 votes.

Allocations in the US bailout include $ 17 billion for vaccine-related activities and programs and $ 110 billion for other efforts to contain the pandemic; $ 130 billion for public schools; and $ 143 billion to expand the child tax credit, the child care tax credit and the income tax credit mainly earned for one year.

Other provisions include $ 45 billion to temporarily extend Affordable Care Act subsidies for two years and subsidize 2020 and 2021 coverage; $ 50 million for family planning; $ 25 billion for restaurant and bar subsidies; $ 7 billion to enable more loans under the Paycheck Protection Program; $ 6 billion to increase nutritional assistance; and $ 350 billion for states and communities.

The bill also provides for checks of $ 1,400 for individuals earning up to $ 75,000 a year, heads of households earning $ 112,500 or married couples earning $ 150,000. Eligible dependents, including dependent adults, would also each receive $ 1,400.

The House measure also requires that the minimum wage be gradually reduced to $ 15 an hour by 2025.

The Senate is due to resume its version of the measure in the first week of March, but reports indicate that many members of the chamber are divided over the size and scope of the bill. The minimum wage provision will not be included; the parliamentarian of the Senate said that under the budgetary rules this could not be taken into account.

The National Council of Nonprofits said it had failed in some areas, including expanding the number of people eligible to apply for PPP loans by including some nonprofits with more than 500 employees, but said the deadline for applying for these loans should be extended beyond March 31. newly eligible nonprofits have time to apply.

“We call on senators to include the additional relief that more than 3,000 organizations are calling for, so that nonprofits can all continue to keep our membership intact and help people in our communities,” the organization said.

March for Life President Jeanne Mancini weighed in on the House without including a Hyde provision.

“At a time when our country mourns the deaths of 500,000 Americans, very little (less than 10%) of the misnamed COVID relief program is actually being used to fight the pandemic,” she said. “Pro-abortion Democrats are using this bill to pass billions of dollars in abortion subsidies, not only here in the United States but also overseas.”

These lawmakers “are trying to use the budget reconciliation process to get there because they wouldn’t otherwise have the votes necessary to eliminate the popular pro-life runners who protect Americans from funding end-of-life proceedings.” she declared.

Like Smith, Mancini pointed to “consistent polls” that show “most Americans oppose taxpayer dollars funding abortion here and abroad. So much for unity.

Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life, said some estimate that more than $ 414 billion in taxpayer dollars in the US bailout “could potentially be used to pay for elective abortions or insurance plans that cover elective abortions. “

“Democratic leaders in the House are not interested in the wishes of the majority of Americans who oppose taxpayer funding for abortions,” Tobias said. “Democratic leaders are more concerned with delivering on election year promises made to pro-abortion groups. These groups are interested in abortion anytime, anywhere, for any reason and are paid for by taxpayers.