Biden is urging the Senate to take swift action on a massive COVID-19 relief package

President Joe Biden says that if the country acts now, it can “finally beat this virus”. (AP photo)

President Joe Biden on Saturday welcomed the US House of Representatives’ approval last night of a massive $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, saying it is bringing the country closer to a complete Covid-19 vaccination and economic recovery.

The package passed to the House of Representatives after 7 a.m. GMT on Saturday, by 219 votes to 212, with not a single Republican vote, and moved next week to the Senate.

“I hope you receive quick action,” Biden said in a brief speech from the White House.

“We have no time to waste. If we act now decisively, quickly and boldly, we can finally defeat this virus.”

The vote in the House of Representatives meant that “we are one step closer to vaccinating the nation. We are one step closer to putting $ 1,400 in Americans’ pockets, and one step closer to extending unemployment benefits to the millions of Americans it will soon lose. “

He said the bill That would be the second-largest US stimulus ever, after a $ 2 trillion package approved in March It would also help schools reopen safely and allow local and state governments to avoid “mass layoffs of essential workers.”

The House vote came just days after the death toll from Covid-19 exceeded 500,000 in the United States, the worst total in the world.

Democrats described the aid package as a critical step in supporting the millions of families and businesses devastated by the pandemic. It extends unemployment benefits, which are due to expire in mid-March, by about six months.

But Republicans say it is too costly, fails to direct aid payments to those who need it most, and could lead to devastating inflation.

The administration appears poised to use a special approach that requires only 51 votes in the 100-seat Senate Which means that a vote by each Democrat, as well as an equal vote by Vice President Kamala Harris, will be required.

But progressives suffered a major setback when a senior Senate official ruled on Thursday that the final version of the bill in that room could not include an increase in the minimum wage.

Biden campaigned extensively to raise the federal minimum wage to $ 15 an hour, from the $ 7.25 rate that had been in place since 2009. Progressives were pushing the increase as a Democratic priority.

In his statements on Saturday, the president did not mention the matter, which is a source of contention within the party.

Most Republicans, and a few Democrats, opposed a wage hike, so stripping it of the Senate version of the legislation could actually facilitate its passage.

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