Joe Biden to press US Congress for $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package

  • 25/01/2021
Joe Biden promised voters he would take better action against COVID-19.
Joe Biden promised voters he would take better action against COVID-19. Photo credit: Getty

By Asha Abdi

President Joe Biden's top economic aides urged Democratic and Republican senators to grant US$1.9 trillion in COVID-19 relief on Sunday.

Congress has previously agreed to a $4 trillion COVID-19 response plan but Biden's administration insists another $1.9 trillion is needed to support struggling Americans and avoid an economic crisis.

The response plan will include unemployment benefits and payments to households.

At least a dozen senators spoke for over an hour with the director of the White House National Economic Council, Brian Deese, and other White House officials.

Biden promised voters he would take better action against COVID-19 compared to former President Donald Trump.

"We're in a national emergency, and we need to act like we're in a national emergency," Biden said before signing executive orders on economic relief.

White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said they will continue to push for the additional $1.9 trillion despite opposition from the Republican Party.

"Just because Washington has been gridlocked before doesn't mean it needs to continue to be gridlocked," said Jean-Pierre.

Some Republicans have expressed animosity towards the additional relief package.

Republican Senator for Utah Mitt Romney disagreed with the government engaging in "massive deficit spending" and told Fox News Sunday that the total figure is " pretty shocking".

Republican Senator for Maine Susan Collins said the package was premature considering its size and suggested both parties come up with a more targeted package, including funding for vaccine distribution.

Democratic Senator for Illinois Dick Durbin is hopeful Republicans and Democrats will reach an agreement.

"The object is trying to see if there's an area of agreement we can launch when it comes to this rescue package," he told NBC.

But Bernie Sanders, the independent Senator for Vermont, said he didn't have high hopes the two parties would come to a solution.

Sanders urged Democrats to use budget reconciliation to pass it with a simple majority.

This would allow Democrats to push the package to approval without the 60-vote threshold typically needed to advance legislation.

"What we cannot do is wait weeks and weeks and months and months to go forward. We have got to act now. That is what the American people want," Sanders said.

Republicans used this tactic to pass tax cuts during the Trump administration.

The COVID-19 death toll in the US has reached over 417,000 with more than 175,000 being infected per day.