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AFP
March 7, 2021

Senate passes Rs30 trillion Biden Covid rescue plan

Top Story

AFP
March 7, 2021

WASHINGTON: The US Senate on Saturday voted to approve a $1.9 trillion (Rs298,280 billion) relief package that President Joe Biden vows will revive the country´s pandemic-stricken economy, capping hours of debate, frenzied negotiations and a marathon overnight voting session.

Passed by 50 votes to 49 in a party line vote, the sweeping legislation now heads back to the Democratic-majority House of Representatives, where it is expected to be adopted barring a last-minute setback. Even without the progressive priority of a minimum wage increase to $15 an hour, the stimulus bill marks a victory for Biden’s Democrats as they put their stamp on the recovery from a pandemic that has killed over 500,000 in the United States and hobbled its economy.

"This bill will deliver more help to more people than anything the federal government has done in decades " said top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer ahead of the vote. The legislation would send out $1,400 stimulus checks to most Americans and allocates $350 billion to state and local governments and $130 billion to schools.

It would also provide $49 billion for expanded Covid testing, tracing and research, and $14 billion for vaccine distribution. The huge bill -- the second largest rescue package in US history, after last year´s $2 trillion CARES Act -- almost fell apart. The Senate action was paralyzed for more than 10 hours Friday as Democrats scrambled to retain the support of the party´s most conservative senator, Joe Manchin, who balked at the scale of jobless benefits. It took a call from Biden himself and a reduction in supplemental weekly unemployment insurance from $400 to $300, among other tweaks, to prevent Manchin from defecting to the Republicans. Over a rapid-fire but lengthy series known as a "vote-a-rama", bleary-eyed senators acted on dozen of amendments, mostly Republican proposals that failed but which forced rival Democrats into casting politically-fraught votes.

Republicans are united in opposition to the bill, which they frame as a bloated ideological wish list for Democrats. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has decried it as "a parade of left-wing projects" and said "our country´s already set for a roaring recovery." Biden´s proposal is the third major stimulus package aimed at helping the US economy weather the coronavirus crisis.