A majorly divided Senate has passed the $1.9 trillion stimulus plan, which approves $300 jobless aid per week till September and direct payments of up to $1400 for millions of Americans. This marks Biden’s first legislative effort to revive the pandemic-stricken economy.
In a party-line vote, the legislation was passed by 50-49 votes after 24 hours of the debate opening. The bill now has to be cleared by the House a second time before President Joe Biden can sign it into law, reports AFP.
In addition to sending out $1,400 stimulus checks, the legislation will also be allocating $130 billion to schools and $350 billion to local and state governments.
An added $49 billion will be invested in COVID-19 research, tracing and testing. $14 billion is allocated for vaccine distribution.
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Democrats had to push through with intense lobbying to pass the bill with key vote Senator Joe Manchin leaning towards voting for the bill proposed by GOP Senator Rob Portman.
Biden had to take a call and reduce the unemployment weekly aid from $400 to $300 to ensure Manchin does not side with the Republicans, reports AFP.
The session was paralysed for 12 hours on Friday as Democrats lobbied to ensure Manchin voted in favour of the bill.
Despite the tweaks and rejection of the clause on the minimum wage to be increased to $15/hour, the passing of the bill marks an important victory for Biden. The bill will accelerate the country recovery where 500,000 have their lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said ahead of voting, “It’s been a long day, a long night, a long year, but a new day has come and we tell the American people help is on the way. This bill will deliver more help to more people than anything the federal government has done in decades”
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The aid is meant to pump federal resources into the economy and help with funds required to distribute COVID-19 vaccines and relief packages to small businesses, cities, states and schools.
The US economy is short of 9.5 million jobs as compared to February 2020, before COVID-19 hit. Substantive economic data shows better than expected recruitment in February but there is a big gap that still needs to be filled.
The Republicans have expressed a united against the stimulus bill citing reasons of it being too expensive and a bloated ideological wishlist for Democrats, reports AFP.
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.”