National Post

Biden wins first major victory as American Rescue Plan is passed

- Rozina Sabur

Democrats in Congress passed one of the largest economic stimulus measures in U.S. history Wednesday with a US$1.9 trillion coronaviru­s relief bill handing Joe Biden the first major victory of his presidency.

The financial relief package will provide direct payments to most Americans, with tens of millions of households set to receive US$1,400 cheques as well as extended child tax credits and enhanced unemployme­nt support.

The stimulus bill passed the House of Representa­tives, where Democrats hold the majority, without a single vote from Republican congressme­n, despite Biden’s hopes of gaining bipartisan support for the measure.

Democrats praised the vote as a “historic day” and the “beginning of the end of the great COVID depression,” comparing the stimulus package to U.S. government relief in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.

The White House said Biden plans to sign the bill into law Friday.

The bill’s passage occurred before the Democrats’ self-imposed March 14 deadline, when current unemployme­nt benefits expire, despite opposition from Republican­s, and represente­d the first of Biden’s major policy agendas.

Polling suggests the majority of Americans support the stimulus package, which Biden called the American Rescue Plan, and if it succeeds it could offer a major boost to Democrats ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.

Republican­s dismissed the bill as a partisan wish list of liberal priorities and argued the huge package placed too much of a burden on the public purse.

Key features of the package include up to Us$1,400per-person direct payments that will be sent to around 85 per cent of U.S. households, a US$300 per-week top up to unemployme­nt benefits and an expansion of the child tax credit of up to USUS$3,600 per child.

The sweeping bill also includes US$350 billion in aid to state and local government­s, as well as billions of dollars for schools to help students return to the classroom, vaccine research and developmen­t and aid to small businesses hit by the pandemic.

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