Biden calls for ‘quick action’ in Senate on coronavirus relief package
President Biden called for “quick action” in the Senate after the House early Saturday morning passed his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.
“For a few weeks now, an overwhelming percentage of the American public has made it clear that they support my American Rescue Plan. And the House of Representatives took the first step toward making it a reality,” Biden said at the White House on Saturday.
“Now the bill moves to the United States Senate, where I hope it will receive quick action. I have — we have no time to waste. If we act now, decisively, quickly and boldly, we can finally get ahead of this virus. We can finally get our economy moving again,” he added. “The people of this country have suffered far too much for too long. We need to relieve that suffering.”
The House passed the plan by a 219-212 margin, with two Democrats — Reps. Jared Golden (Maine) and Kurt Schrader (Ore.) — joining all Republicans in voting against it.
Pressure to pass the legislation has ramped up among Democrats. Additional unemployment insurance benefits expire on March 14, and the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus recently surpassed 500,000 people. More infectious variants are also spreading across the country, stalling a nationwide drop in cases.
The legislation includes measures that would provide a third round of direct stimulus checks, up to $1,400 for individuals, as well as an increase of $400 for weekly unemployment insurance through Aug. 29 and $8.5 billion in funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for vaccination efforts.
Biden said that with the House’s vote “we’re one step closer to vaccinating the nation. We’re one step closer to putting $1,400 in the pockets of Americans. We are one step closer to extending unemployment benefits for millions of Americans who are shortly going to lose them.”
The Senate is anticipated to amend the bill once it arrives in the upper chamber. Among the top issues is a boost to the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour that was tucked into the House bill that the Senate parliamentarian said must be taken out for it to pass via budget reconciliation, a gambit that would allow Democrats to push through the bill with a simple majority vote.
After it is amended and passed in the Senate, it would have to be returned to the House, which would hold a second vote before sending it to Biden’s desk for his signature.