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House and Senate approve key step to allow Dems to pass COVID-19 relief bill without GOP support

Joe Biden
Posted at 9:55 AM, Feb 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-05 16:11:58-05

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Both the House of Representatives and the Senate have passed a budget resolution that is a key procedural step that will set up the possibility for Democrats to pass the president's large COVID-19 relief package without a filibuster from Republicans.

President Joe Biden reiterated Friday, before the Senate vote, that his administration does not plan to significantly negotiate down from its proposed $1.9 stimulus package.

In prepared remarks from the White House, Biden said that when presented with the choice to either quickly provide economic relief to Americans or reach a bipartisan compromise on a bill, he said the choice was easy. He said he would help "people who are hurting" across the country.

Early Friday morning, Vice President Harris cast her first tie-breaking vote in order to pass a budget resolution, which was then taken up and approved by the Senate later in the day. It's a key measure that paves the way for Democrats to pass Biden’s relief package without Republican support, but does not mean the relief package has passed.

Embedded in the budget resolution that passed both houses on Congress on Friday are reconciliation instructions that would allow congressional committees to formally draft and approve legislation on things like vaccine production, distribution, unemployment insurance, and stimulus checks, according to CNN.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said they hope to send a bill to the Senate in a "two week period of time."

Biden criticized Republicans for their continued criticisms regarding the price of his proposed bill.

"What Republicans have proposed is that we do nothing, or we don't do enough," Biden said.

Biden also appeared to draw a line in the sand when it came to negotiations in direct payments to most Americans.

"I'm not cutting the size of the checks. They're $1,400, period," Biden said. "That's what the American people were promised."

Biden added that he believed the country faced a greater risk in not acting to address the U.S.'s sluggish economy.

"The way I see it, the risk is not if we go too big. It's if we go too small," he said.

Biden’s plan is expansive and would address many issues related to the coronavirus crisis.

The bill would allocate money to mount a national vaccination program, attempt to contain COVID-19 and safely reopen schools across the country. Specifically, the White House says the plan would set up community vaccination sites, scale up testing and tracing, invest in treatments, provide paid sick leave, and address health disparities.

It would also provide another round of direct payments to many Americans. The original bill calls for sending $1,400 checks to people making $75,000 a year or below. Though, while negotiating, the Biden administration has discussed lowering the income threshold to $50,000, The Washington Post reports.

The White House says the bill would also support communities struggling in the wake of COVID-19 by providing support for hard-hit small businesses and protecting the jobs of first responders, transit workers and other essential workers.

Click here to learn more about the American Rescue Plan.