US Senate Passes Massive COVID-19 Rescue Bill | News from the United States and Canada

As Vice President Harris snaps a tie vote, Senate begins work on $ 1.9 trillion spending package sought by Biden

The United States Senate cleared a major procedural hurdle on Thursday, paving the way for its approval this weekend of President Joe Biden’s proposed COVID-19 bailout bill for $ 1.9 trillion.

“The United States is facing a once-in-a-century crisis that has sapped millions of jobs in our economy, left millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet and stolen more than half a million American lives Said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

“The time has come to move forward with bold and strong relief for the American people,” said Schumer.

The massive spending bill includes funding $ 1,400 in direct payments to millions of middle-income U.S. citizens, $ 350 billion for state and local governments, and $ 130 billion for public schools in kindergarten to grade 12.

The legislation provides renewed funding for a U.S. pandemic program for small businesses and extends federal unemployment benefits for unemployed workers.

It includes $ 30 billion in rental and housing assistance and extends a federal moratorium on rental evictions until September.

Vaccines, supplies for testing and tracing also receive additional funding in the bill as the Biden administration ramps up efforts nationwide to immunize every American adult by the end of May.

Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called the bill “ill-suited” to the challenge the United States faces a year after the start of the pandemic and a “frenzy of partisan spending.”

The bill does not include Biden’s proposed increase in the US minimum wage from $ 7.25 to $ 15 an hour, a provision that passed the House of Representatives last week, but does not have enough support in the Senate.

The Senate, with Biden’s backing, also lowered income eligibility standards for checks of $ 1,400 to people earning less than $ 80,000 a year.

The huge legislation comes on top of the nearly $ 4 trillion that the US Congress previously authorized in 2020 to fight the coronavirus pandemic, and comes at a time of the pace of COVID-19 infections and states’ economic recovery -United seem to have stabilized.

The Senate vote was 50-50 along party lines between Democrats and Republicans with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie for Democrats. The Senate vote came amid heightened security measures in Washington, DC, as authorities warned of potential militia threats and the House suspended operations for a day.

Republicans opposed the measure, saying Biden had failed to follow through on his promises to pursue bipartisanship and argued the bill was burdened with overspending.

“Should we really be sending stimulus checks to people who haven’t missed a paycheck,” asked Republican Senator John Kennedy.

“Let’s review our needs and discuss how much to spend. But that is not how it is done. It’s just raw, instinctive politics, ”complained Kennedy.

Unable to block the bill, Republicans sought to delay the process early in debate by requiring Senate clerks to read the bill aloud, a process that could take up to 10 hours.

A new poll by Morning Consult found that 71% of U.S. voters, including most Republican voters, supported the legislation. Conducted from February 26 to March 1, the survey of 1,992 registered voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

The virus has killed more than 519,000 people in the United States.

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