WASHINGTON - President Joe Biden announced on Saturday that eligible Americans should begin to receive $1,400 stimulus checks starting in March after the Senate voted 50-49 to pass the Democrats' $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill.
"When we took office 45 days ago, I promised the American people that help was on the way," Biden said. "Today, I can say we have taken one more giant step forward in delivering on that promise."
An exhausted Senate narrowly approved a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill Saturday as President Joe Biden and his Democratic allies notched a victory they called crucial for hoisting the country out of the pandemic and economic doldrums.
"This plan will get checks out the door starting this month," Biden said. "Over 85% of American households will get direct payments of $1,400 per person."
After laboring through the night on a mountain of amendments — nearly all from Republicans and rejected — bleary-eyed senators approved the sprawling package on a 50-49 party-line vote. That sets up final congressional approval by the House next week so lawmakers can send it to Biden for his signature.
"We tell the American people, help is on the way," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. Citing the country's desire to resume normalcy, he added, "Our job right now is to help our country get from this stormy present to that hopeful future."
The huge package — its total spending is nearly one-tenth the size of the entire U.S. economy — is Biden’s biggest early priority. It stands as his formula for addressing the deadly virus and a limping economy, twin crises that have afflicted the country for a year.
Saturday's vote was also a crucial political moment for Biden and Democrats, who need nothing short of party unanimity in a 50-50 Senate they run because of Vice President Kamala Harris' tiebreaking vote. They also have a a slim 10-vote edge in the House.
A small but pivotal band of moderate Democrats leveraged changes in the bill that incensed progressives, not making it any easier for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to guide the measure through the House. But rejection of their first, signature bill was not an option for Democrats, who face two years of trying to run Congress with virtually no room for error.
The bill provides direct payments of up to $1,400 for most Americans.
Under the latest proposal, Americans earning $75,000 or less would still receive the fully promised $1,400 payment. But the checks would phase out faster for individuals at higher income levels than in the version passed Saturday by House Democrats, with individuals making $80,000 a year or more and couples making $160,000 a year, or higher, no longer qualifying for the money.
The relief bill will also extend emergency unemployment benefits, and vast piles of spending for COVID-19 vaccines and testing, states and cities, schools and ailing industries, along with tax breaks to help lower-earning people, families with children and consumers buying health insurance.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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