Sabtu, 06 Maret 2021

US Senate passes Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan -

After an overnight “vote-a-rama” and hours of debate and frenzied negotiation, the US Senate has passed a $US 1.9 trillion ($2.5 trillion) COVID-19 relief package that President Joe Biden vows will revive the nation’s pandemic-stricken economy.

Passed by 50 votes to 49, with no Republicans voting in favour, the sweeping legislation is the second largest stimulus package in American history.

Speaking from the White House yesterday afternoon (US time), the President said he’d “promised the American people help was on the way”.

“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.

“By passing this plan, we’ll have proved that this government, this democracy, can still work.

“It has to be done. It will improve people’s lives.”

Ahead of the vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer vowed that “this bill will deliver more help to more people than anything the federal government has done in decades”.

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The final bill — which will now head back to the House of Representatives for passage — includes $US400 billion ($520 billion) in one-off payments of $1800 to most Americans, $390 a week in extended jobless benefits for the 9.5 million people unable to work throughout the pandemic, and $455 billion in aid to state and local governments. More than $100 billion will also be allocated to the nation’s schools.

Democratic majority leader in the House, Steny Hoyer, said the chamber would take up the amended bill on Tuesday, with intentions to get it passed and signed by Mr Biden early next week.

“The American Rescue Plan will make a real difference to get more Americans vaccinated, safely reopen our schools, and help struggling families make ends meet,” Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren wrote on Twitter.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement it was “a day of great progress … to save lives and livelihoods”.

“We now urge Republicans to join us in recognition of the imminent need for decisive action and to fulfil the promise that help is on the way.”

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Republican senators – including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell – have been united in their opposition of the plan, with Mr McConnell slamming it as a “colossal missed opportunity for our nation”.

“Democrats decided their top priority wasn’t pandemic relief, it was their Washington wish list,” he said in a statement.

Others have described the package as a “clunker”, “bad politics” and “wildly expensive”.

Democrats also faced a 12-hour struggle to get one of their own – West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, one of the party’s most conservative members – over the line, after he baulked at the scale of jobless benefits.

It took a call from the President himself and a reduction in supplemental weekly unemployment insurance from $US400 to $US300, among other tweaks, to prevent him from defecting to the opposition.

– with AFP

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2021-03-07 00:42:00Z

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