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Biden hails the “giant step” to aid Covid as the Senate announces its historic rescue plan

Joe Biden’s relief package will allocate $ 49 billion for COVID-19 testing and $ 14 billion for vaccine distribution. (AP photo)

The US Senate voted on Saturday to approve a $ 1.9 trillion relief package in what President Joe Biden described as a “giant step” toward reviving the pandemic-stricken US economy, capping frantic negotiations and a lengthy voting session overnight.

The sweeping legislation was passed by 50 to 49 in a strict party vote, and the inclusive legislation is now back in the Democratic-majority House of Representatives, where it is expected to adopt it, unless there is a setback at the last minute.

“I promised the American people that aid was on the way,” Biden said in a letter from the White House, after the plan was approved on strict partisan grounds.

“Today, I can say that we have taken another giant step forward in fulfilling this promise,” he said. “Obviously, it wasn’t easy. She wasn’t always beautiful. But she needed her most.”

Even without the progressive priority of increasing the minimum wage to $ 15 an hour, the stimulus bill represents a victory for Democrats in Biden as they have set their mark on recovery from an epidemic that has killed and disrupted more than 500,000 people in the United States. Its economy.

Senior Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer pledged that the bill “will provide more help to more people than anything the federal government has provided decades ago.”

The legislation will send $ 1,400 in incentive checks to most Americans and allocate $ 350 billion to state and local governments and $ 130 billion to schools.

It will also save $ 49 billion for expanded Covid testing, tracking, and research, and $ 14 billion for vaccine distribution.

Steny Hoyer, the leader of the Democratic majority in the House, said the chamber will consider the revised bill on Tuesday, aiming to send it to Biden for signature early next week.

Voting in the branch

The huge bill The second largest rescue package in US history, after the $ 2 trillion CARES Act last year Almost collapses.

The Senate was paralyzed for more than 10 hours on Friday as Democrats scrambled to retain the support of the more conservative Senator, Joe Mansheen, who rejected the size of unemployment benefits.

It took a call from Biden and a cut in additional weekly unemployment insurance from $ 400 to $ 300, among other adjustments, to prevent Manchine from defecting.

The drama served to highlight the growing political power of moderates in the struggling Senate, where one swing vote could either trigger or break major legislation.

Biden had already had to compromise with Democrats to urge them to have more financial restraint, as he was reported to have agreed to narrow the income threshold for families receiving incentive checks.

But the president drew an optimistic note, insisting: “I do not think that any of the settlements has in any way changed the essence of what I put in the bill in the first place.”

“This plan is historic,” Biden said.

He said, “This plan will come out of the door starting this month for the American people who are in dire need of help.” Many of them lie in bed at night, staring at the ceiling, and wondering, “Will I lose my job …?” Will I lose my insurance? Will I lose my home? ”

The breach in the bill came on the back of strong US economic data indicating that the world’s largest economy may finally recover, including better-than-expected employment in February as troubled firms start hiring again.

However, the economy was still short of 9.5 million jobs compared to February 2020.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen welcomed the Senate vote, saying that without that, it could take two years for the economy to return to pre-Covid levels, creating “economic scars that continue beyond the end of the epidemic.”

‘Wish List’

During a quick but long series known as the “Rama vote,” dark-eyed senators acted on dozens of amendments, most of which failed Republican proposals but forced rival Democrats to cast a politically charged vote.

Republicans united in opposing the bill, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a statement criticizing “a huge missed opportunity for our nation.”

“The Democrats decided that their top priority was not relief from the pandemic, it was their wish-list in Washington,” he said.

Although Biden had promised during the 2020 election campaign to work as hard as he could with the Republicans, he was unable to win a single vote from the opposition party.

But he rejected the idea, which was a bad omen of the advancement of the bipartisan partnership.

“Look, the American people strongly support what we’re doing,” Biden told reporters. “That’s the key here. It will continue to leak through the public, including from our Republican friends.”

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