United States President Joe Biden on Tuesday urged Senate Democrats to remain focused on passing a $ 1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package currently on hold in Congress despite Republican opposition .
Biden spoke by virtual conference call with Senate Democrats at their weekly party meetings on Tuesday and spoke to a group of 10 Democratic senators on Monday.
Swift passage of the $ 1.9 trillion bill is Biden’s top priority as his new administration seeks to take control of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States and begin to turn around the US economy by difficulty.
“President Biden made his presentation today to our entire caucus and he said we need to pass this bill and pass it soon,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
“This is what the American people sent us here to do,” Schumer said.
Biden and Democratic leaders in Congress have set an ambitious timeline to get the president’s $ 1.9 trillion bill for signature by March 14, and Schumer said the Senate is on track to meet that date. limit.
But Democratic senators, facing Republican opposition, must stand united amid disputes over unemployment benefits and minimum wage.
According to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republicans view the legislation as excessive and unnecessary as the United States moves towards recovery from the pandemic.
“It’s an extremely expensive proposition, largely unrelated to the problem,” McConnell told reporters on Capitol Hill Tuesday.
“We will fight in any way we can. I hope that in the end the Republicans in the Senate will unanimously oppose it, ”McConnell said.
The US Senate is preparing to debate and vote on the legislation this week. The bill cleared the House on an online party vote on February 27 and the Senate will now consider a series of amendments before sending it back to the House for final approval.
The bill would extend federal unemployment benefits to unemployed workers that were enacted by Congress on a temporary basis at the start of the pandemic and are expected to expire on March 14.
The enhanced payments would be available until the end of August and would drop from $ 300 per week to $ 400 per week.
Some Democrats are pushing to reduce the increase and lengthen the extension of the deadline in favor.
The unemployment rate in the United States was 6.3% in January, with 10.1 million people out of work, about double the pre-pandemic unemployment rate.
Biden proposed to raise the U.S. minimum wage to $ 15 an hour in legislation, and the Democratic-controlled House approved the measure. But raising the minimum wage faces an uphill battle in the Senate.
Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have said they do not support increasing the minimum wage.
With the Senate split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, opposition from Manchin and Sinema means there probably aren’t enough votes in the Senate to pass the pay hike.
“I expect a warm debate. I wait for late nights on the floor. But the American people overwhelmingly support this legislation, ”Schumer said, citing public opinion.
The number of new cases in the United States has started to decline and hit the lowest point since October – 48,000 on Monday, according to The COVID Tracking Project. Deaths and hospitalizations also trended down as vaccines began to be distributed.
However, officials in the Biden administration responsible for managing the US response to the pandemic warn that COVID-19 numbers appear to have leveled off and could start to rise as new, more infectious and deadly variants of the virus spread. .
“I remain deeply concerned about a potential change in the trajectory of the pandemic,” CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky said in a White House briefing on March 1.
“At this level of cases, with the spread of variants, we risk completely losing the hard-earned ground that we have gained,” Walensky said.
The United States has suffered more deaths than any other country with 515,000 deaths, according to global data tracked by Johns Hopkins University.