President Biden on Saturday cheered Senate Democrats’ approval of his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill and told Americans to get ready to cash their $1,400 stimulus checks.
“This plan will get checks out the door starting this month to the American people,” he told reporters at the White House.
Senate Democrats forced through the massive spending bill in a party-line vote, sending the bill back to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s chamber for final approval en route to the Oval Office.
“This nation has suffered too much for much too long,” Mr. Biden said. “Everything in this package is designed to relieve the suffering and to meet the most urgent needs of the nation, and put us in a better position to prevail.”
Mr. Biden glossed over concerns of the party’s far-left wing, who did not get all of their priorities included in the package, and Republicans were almost entirely cut out of the process.
“They’re not frustrated,” Mr. Biden said of progressives. “As Bernie Sanders said, this is the most progressive bill he’s ever seen pass since he’s been here. The compromises were all compromises that didn’t affect the substance, the essence, of what the bill is.”
The far-left felt robbed that the package did not include an increase of the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour from $7.25. They also had to settle for a smaller boost of $300 a week to unemployment benefits rather than the $400 in the House-passed version of the bill.
“The end result is essentially about the same. So I don’t think any of the compromises have in any way fundamentally altered the essence of what I put in the bill in the first place,” said the president.
Mr. Biden brushed aside a question about the highly partisan tone set by the legislation that was his top priority.
“The bottom line is this: This plan puts us on a path to beating the virus,” he said.
The rescue package includes the stimulus checks for individuals making under $75,000 and couples making under $150,000. The bill would provide $130 billion for K-12 schools, nearly $40 billion for colleges, $15 billion for loans to small businesses, $14 billion for vaccine programs and $8.4 billion for rural hospitals.
Republicans objected to the excessive and scattershot spending. They said just 10% of the money goes to COVID-19 related issues and squanders the rescue spending on an economy that is already rebounding, pointing to Friday’s unemployment report that showed 379 thousand jobs added to the economy last month.
They also balked at the $350 billion going to states such as California that have posted budget surpluses despite predictions that the pandemic lockdowns would dramatically shrink state tax revenues.
What’s more, they said, Washington already spent $4 trillion on COVID-19 aid last year.
“The Senate has never spent $2 trillion in a more haphazard way,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican. “We could have worked together to speed up victory but our Democratic colleagues made a decision. Their top priority wasn’t pandemic relief, it was their Washington wish list.”