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World

'Giant step' as Biden Covid rescue plan clears Senate

  • It would also provide $49 billion for expanded Covid testing, tracing and research, and $14 billion for vaccine distribution.
Updated 07 Mar 2021

WASHINGTON: The US Senate on Saturday voted to approve a $1.9 trillion relief package in what President Joe Biden called a "giant step" towards reviving the pandemic-stricken American economy, capping frenzied negotiations and a marathon overnight voting session.

Passed by 50 votes to 49 in a strict party line vote, the sweeping legislation now heads back to the Democratic-majority House of Representatives, where it is expected to be adopted, barring a last-minute setback.

"I promised the American people help was on the way," said Biden in an address from the White House, after the plan was approved along strict party lines.

"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."

Even without the progressive priority of a minimum wage increase to $15 an hour, the stimulus bill marks a victory for Biden's Democrats as they put their stamp on the recovery from a pandemic that has killed more than 500,000 people in the United States and hobbled its economy.

Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer vowed that the bill "will deliver more help to more people than anything the federal government has done in decades."

The legislation would send out $1,400 stimulus checks to most Americans and allocates $350 billion to state and local governments and $130 billion to schools.

It would also provide $49 billion for expanded Covid testing, tracing and research, and $14 billion for vaccine distribution.

Steny Hoyer, the Democratic majority leader in the House, said the chamber would take up the amended bill on Tuesday, with a view to sending it to Biden for his signature early next week.