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US Congress passes key step, allowing Democrats to pass Biden's 1.9-tln relief package

Xinhua | Updated: 2021-02-06 14:54

US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the state of the US economy and the need to pass coronavirus disease (COVID-19) aid legislation as Vice President Kamala Harris and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen listen in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, US, Feb 5, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

WASHINGTON - Both chambers of US Congress on Friday passed a budget resolution, a key step which would allow Democrats to push through President Joe Biden's 1.9-trillion-USD COVID-19 relief package without Republican support.

The Senate approved the budget resolution early Friday morning, with senators voting along party lines, leading to a 50-50 tie. Vice President Kamala Harris cast the decisive vote to make it 51-50.

The Democrats-held House of Representatives passed the measure in the afternoon, with one Democrat voting against it.

The congressional approval of the budget resolution paves the way for Democrats to use a process called "budget reconciliation" to pass the relief package with a simple majority in the Senate, avoiding a Republican filibuster and allowing Democrats to pass the legislation on their own.

"It gives us hope. It is a reconciliation bill, which means we can pass it with just 51 votes in the Senate," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday on the House floor.

"I hope we will have a very strong vote in favor of crushing the virus, money in the pockets, people back to work and children, children, children safely in school," said the Democratic leader.

Some Republicans, meanwhile, want a much smaller relief package, arguing that Congress just passed a 900-billion relief bill in December, and voicing concerns over the already ballooning deficit.

Michael Burgess, a congressman from Texas, said it has been "disappointing" that Democrats are using a "partisan process" to pass a major relief package, just days after Biden called for unity in his inauguration speech.

"President Biden's call for unity was a simple talking point and instead of working with House GOP and Senate GOP, Democrats are pushing forward a partisan agenda that doesn't represent all Americans," Burgess said.

The US president, however, said Friday that what Republicans have proposed is "either to do nothing or not enough."

"The biggest risk is not going too big, if we go -- it's if we go too small," said Biden, who reflected on his time as vice president during the Obama administration, which rolled out the 800-billion-USD rescue package in 2009.

"But it wasn't enough. It wasn't quite big enough. It stemmed the crisis, but the recovery could have been faster and even bigger," he said. "Today, we need an answer that meets the challenge of this crisis, not one that falls short."

Biden's remarks came a few hours after the Labor Department released the monthly employment report, which showed that US employers added just 49,000 jobs in January, after slashing downwardly revised 227,000 jobs in December.

"And while we are grateful for everyone who found work and is earning a paycheck, it is very clear our economy is still in trouble," Biden said, noting that more than 10 million people remain out of work.

"A once-in-a-century virus has decimated our economy, and it's still wreaking havoc on our economy today," said the president. "I'm going to act, and I'm going to act fast."

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