US House approves budget resolution for Covid-19 relief package


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 The US House of Representatives approved on Wednesday a budget resolution that would allow Congress to pass President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package without Republican support.

The Democrats-controlled House passed the budget resolution on Wednesday night by a vote of 218-212, with no Republicans supporting the measure, reports Xinhua news agency.

"While bipartisan talks continue, today's passage of the 2021 budget resolution ensures that we have another path to enacting President Biden's 'American Rescue Plan'," House Budget Committee Chair John Yarmuth said in a statement.

"The American people cannot wait, and Congress cannot slow down our response to these urgent crises while Republicans decide if they want to help or not," Yarmuth said.

The Senate is expected to approve the budget resolution later this week.

Then both chambers will need to approve a budget reconciliation package that includes the Covid-19 relief deal, according to local media.

Using budget reconciliation, Democrats could push the relief package through the Senate with a simple majority, rather than the 60 votes needed for most legislations.

The package includes over $400 billion to combat the pandemic directly such as more funding for testing and vaccine distribution; roughly $1 trillion in direct relief to households; and over $400 billion for hard-hit small businesses and communities.

The party breakdown in the Senate is 50-50 now, with Vice President Kamala Harris having the power to cast the tie-breaking vote to give Democrats the majority.

"I think the President has been clear there is an urgency to delivering relief to the American people. And it's important and vital that the House and Senate work quickly to get this bill packet passed," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at a press briefing on Wednesday.

However, Republicans complained that using budget reconciliation to move forward the relief package would undermine Biden's message of bipartisan cooperation and unity.

"We've heard a lot of talk about unity, but White House staff and congressional Democrats are working from the opposite playbook," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell tweeted on Wednesday.

"Senate Republicans will be ready and waiting with a host of amendments to improve the rushed procedural step that's being jammed through," McConnell said.

A group of Republican Senators led by Susan Collins from the state of Maine on Monday unveiled their $618 billion Covid-19 relief proposal, falling short of Democrats' demands.

Following a meeting between Biden and Democratic senators at the White House on Wednesday, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said that "we must go big and bold" as this is a once-in-a-century health and economic crisis.

"We hope our Republican colleagues will join us in that, in that big bold program that America needs," he said.

Source: IANS

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