(Credits: Kevin Lamarque)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrats in the U.S. Senate on Saturday moved towards passing the Biden administration’s $ 1.9 trillion (€ 1.594 billion) stimulus package, pushing back Republican attempts to change the bill during a marathon session that had started the day before.

Faced with Republicans united in opposition, Democrats who tightly control the chamber must enlist the support of their 50 members to push through the plan designed to counter the impact of the coronavirus, as they hope to do this weekend. end.

Progress was halted for more than 11 hours as Democrats negotiated a compromise on unemployment benefits to satisfy centrists, primarily Sen. Joe Manchin, who feared the plan could cause the economy to overheat.

With that question resolved, the chamber then voted on some of the hundreds of proposals to amend the bill.

Democrats rejected a Republican proposal that would have reduced the stimulus package to $ 650 billion; one that would have penalized states like New York that underestimated deaths in retirement homes; and one would have forced schools to offer face-to-face courses in order to obtain federal aid.

Faced with its most serious health crisis in a century, the United States has recorded more than 521,000 deaths linked to the coronavirus.

The stimulus package, which includes funding for vaccines and medical supplies, extends unemployment assistance and provides a new round of emergency financial assistance to households, small businesses and local authorities, polls show widely supported opinion.

Democrats hope to get Joe Biden to sign legislation before some current benefits expire on March 14.

While the project until now provided for federal unemployment benefit of $ 400 per week in addition to state aid until August 29, a compromise was found which would set the benefit at $ 300 per week but the would extend until September 6, according to a Democratic aide. The first $ 10,200 would be tax free.

The compromise, which the White House has said was backed by Joe Biden, also extends corporate tax relief for another year, until 2026.

If the Senate passes the bill, the US House of Representatives will need to approve these changes before Joe Biden can sign it.

Republicans have broadly supported previous plans to tackle the coronavirus and revive the world’s largest economy, which has lost 9.5 million jobs since last year.

But with Joe Biden’s accession to the White House and Democrats in Congress, they have criticized this bill as being too costly.

The unemployment rate in the United States, although still high at 6.2% last month, is down from 6.3% recorded in January.

(French version Camille Raynaud and Benjamin Mallet)

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