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US Senate passes $1.9T COVID-19 relief bill

Anadolu Agency ECONOMY
Published March 06,2021

The US Senate passed on Saturday President Joe Biden's much-awaited $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, sending it back to House of Representatives for approval.

The upper chamber had a 50-49 vote, with one absentee and all Republicans voting against the relief package, which was passed through budget reconciliation -- a process that required every Democratic vote without any Republican support.

While Republicans are worried about too much liquidity injected into the economy, Democrats argue that the extensive package is needed for quick recovery in the world's largest economy.

"The Senate has never spent $2 trillion in a more haphazard or less rigorous way," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote on Twitter, reminding that Congress passed last year five pandemic rescue packages totaling $4 trillion.

"Instead of working together to fight COVID-19, Democrats decided to exploit the crisis by jamming through unrelated liberal policies they couldn't pass honestly," the Republican lawmaker of Kentucky added.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, however, said the legislation is one of the most significant anti-poverty bills in modern American history that will help millions of people who are struggling due to the pandemic.

The Democrat Senator of New York added that the bill will help families and jobless individuals by providing aid for food, rent, utilities, small businesses, and vaccine efforts.

Biden said via Twitter: "I hope the American Rescue Plan receives a quick passage in the House so it can be sent to my desk to be signed."

The legislation was "desperately and urgently needed," he told in a press briefing, adding: "Everything in this package was designed to relieve the suffering, and meet the most urgent needs of the nation, and put us in a better position to prevail."

The bill is now sent to the House of Representatives where it will be voted again in the coming days to be sent to the White House. Biden needs to sign it before March 14 if unemployment benefit programs are to be renewed.

The package includes direct payments of up to $1,400 to most Americans and $300 weekly benefits for the unemployed into September. The bill lowered the $400 weekly support through August that passed the House last Saturday.

It also expands child tax credit one year for families with children, rental assistance and K-12 schools for reopening, while it provides new funding for vaccine distribution and testing.