WASHINGTON: The US Senate on Saturday voted to approve a $1.9 trillion 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, reports AFP.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.
“I promised the American people help was on the way,” said Biden in an address from the White House, after the plan was approved along strict party lines.
“Today, I can say we’ve taken one more giant step forward in delivering on that promise,” he said. “It obviously wasn’t easy. It wasn’t always pretty. But it was so desperately needed.”
Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer vowed ahead of the vote that “this bill will deliver more help to more people than anything the federal government has done in decades.”
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.Steny Hoyer, the Democratic majority leader in the House, said the chamber would take up the amended bill on Tuesday, with a view to sending it to Biden for his signature early next week.
The huge bill—the second largest rescue package in US history, after last year’s $2 trillion CARES Act—almost fell apart.
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.