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Biden scores legislative win as House passes $US1.9 trillion COVID relief plan

“I hope it will receive quick action. We have no time to waste,” Biden said, without taking questions. “The people of this country have suffered far too much for far too long.”

President Joe Biden removes his masks before speaking to the media on Saturday.

President Joe Biden removes his masks before speaking to the media on Saturday.Credit:

Democrats said the package was needed to fight a pandemic that has killed more than 500,000 Americans and thrown millions out of work.

“The American people need to know that their government is there for them,” Pelosi said in a debate on the House floor.

Republicans, who have broadly backed previous COVID-19 spending, said much of the current package was not necessary, highlighting elements such as a subway near Pelosi’s San Francisco district. Only 9% of the total would go directly toward fighting the virus, they said.

“It just throws out money without accountability,” House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy said.

Democrats pointed to a recent Quinnipiac University poll showing 68% of Americans supported the package, including 47% of Republicans, with just 37% of Republicans opposing it.

“This critical legislation has support from Americans across the country and the political spectrum, and yet Republicans in Congress are trying to stand in the way,” said Jamie Harrison, chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

The House vote amounted to a successful first test for Democrats, who hold a narrow 221-211 majority in the chamber. Progressives and moderates in the party who are often at odds will face tougher battles ahead on immigration and climate change initiatives that Biden wants to push.

The president has focused his first weeks in office on tackling the greatest US public health crisis in a century, which has upended most aspects of American life.

Democrats aim to get the bill to him to sign into law before mid-March, when enhanced unemployment benefits and some other types of aid are due to expire.

The action now moves to the Senate, where Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris may have to cast a tie-breaking vote in a chamber where Republicans control 50 seats and Democrats and their allies control the other 50.

Reuters

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