Biden hails passage of his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan as “most progressive bill” ever passed

President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Saturday celebrated the passage of his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan by the Senate, describing it as the “most progressive” bill ever passed by the Senate.

The Senators approved the package on a 50-49 party-line vote, with all the Democrats voting for it and nearly all Republicans opposing it. Republican Senator from Alaska, Dan Sullivan, missed the vote.

“I’m going to succeed. We’re going to succeed moving forward,” President Biden said from the White House after delivering prepared remarks on the bill. “Look, the American people strongly support what we’re doing. That’s the key here. And that’s going to continue to seep down through the public including from our Republican friends. There’s a lot of Republicans that came very close, they’ve got a lot of pressure on them and I still haven’t giving up on getting their support.”

The President said he agrees with Senator Bernie Sanders that the bill is “the the most progressive bill he’s ever seen pass.”

 “As Bernie Sanders said, this is the most progressive bill he’s ever seen pass since he’s been here,” Biden said. “The compromises were all compromises that didn’t affect the substance, the essence, of what the bill is. Going from $400 to $300 in unemployment excess? Well, it got extended up until September. The end result is essentially about the same. So I don’t think any of the compromises have in any way fundamentally altered the essence of what I put in the bill in the first place.”

In his prepared remarks, President Biden insisted that the American people needed help and the bill would deliver that help to them.

The version of the bill approved by the Senate on Saturday does have some major differences from the version that was passed by the House of Representatives last week. The House will first have to sign off on the changes made by the Senate before it can reach the President’s desk.

President Joe Biden delivers his inaugural address Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy) 
President Joe Biden delivers his inaugural address Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

The bill passed by the Senate also extends the $300 weekly supplement to unemployment benefits all the way through September 6. The House bill had aimed to raise this to $400 per week.

Notably, the provision that would increase the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour was dropped after the Senate parliamentarian decided that the measure could not be passed with a simple majority.

The Senate’s version of the bill also reduced the number of people that qualify for stimulus checks. Despite changes, the bill still includes $1,400 stimulus checks for Americans who make less than $75,000 a year and $2,800 for married couples making under $150,000.

However, in the Senate’s version the payments phase out for higher-earning individuals more quickly than in the House’s version.

No individual with an average gross income over $80,000 or couples earning over $160,000 will receive a stimulus check. Heads of household earning up to $112,500 will receive the full amount, and it will phase out completely at $120,000 for those filers.

In the previous version of the bill, stimulus checks did not phase out completely until $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for couples.

To help parents and families that are struggling financially, the American Rescue Plan positions the IRS to provide $3,600 in tax credit per child under the age of 6, as well as $3,000 per child of ages 6 to 17. Currently, this tax credit is just $2,000 per dependent.

Families will also be able to claim up to half of their childcare expenses when filing taxes.

The bill reduces health care premiums for low- and middle-income families by increasing premium tax credits through the Affordable Care Act for 2021 and 2022. It also provides subsidies so that it is easier for workers who have recently been laid off or had their hours reduced to keep their health coverage.

The American Rescue Plan sets aside $50 billion for coronavirus testing and contact tracing. It also includes $19 billion for increasing the size of the public health workforce and $16 billion for funding vaccine distribution and supply chains.

To assist small businesses, the bill provides for $25 billion in grants for bars and restaurants that are in financial distress stemming from the pandemic. Additional funds provide for grants to other businesses and companies as well as pension grants.

The bill also includes $350 billion in federal aid for state and local governments, territories, and tribes.

Under the American Rescue Plan, $90 billion would go toward funding for FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund, covering funeral expenses related to the coronavirus, airports, aviation manufacturers, and transit agencies like Amtrak.

Funding provided by the bill includes $130 billion for K-12 education that is meant to be used to create a more socially distant and covid-friendly academic environment for students. An additional $40 billion would go toward childcare providers and another $40 billion would go toward higher education.

The bill sets aside $10 billion for mortgage assistance and $30 billion in rental assistance as well as relief for the homeless.

Read full remarks by President Biden on the Senate Passage of the American Rescue

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon.  It’s a good day today.  You know, when we took office 45 days ago, I promised the American people that help was on the way.  Today, I can say we’ve taken one more giant step forward in delivering on that promise that help is on the way.

I want to thank — start off by thanking the Vice President, but I want to thank all of the senators who worked so hard to reach a compromise to do the right thing for the American people during this crisis and voted to pass the American Rescue Plan.  It obviously wasn’t easy, it wasn’t always pretty, but it was so desperately needed — urgently needed.

Also, I also need to say a few words about the Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who I spoke with many times on this and again this morning.  I served in the Senate, as you all know, for many years.  I’ve never seen anyone work as skillfully, as ably, as patiently, with determination, to deliver such a consequential piece of legislation that was so urgently needed as the American Rescue Plan.

Chuck Schumer — Senator Chuck Schumer, when the country needed you most, you led, Chuck, and you delivered.  Neither I nor the country will ever forget that.  And it’s not a moment too soon.  I’ve been talking about the urgency of this need.

For — for over a year, the American people were told they were on their own.  They were seeing — we’ve seen how hard that has been on so many Americans.  As of last night, 519,064 lives lost to the virus.  That many empty chairs this morning — the breakfast table — gone.  More than four hundred [thousand] small businesses closed unnecessarily.  Millions of people out of work through no fault of their own.  I want to emphasize that: through no fault of their own.  Food bank lines stretching for miles.  Did any of you ever you’d see that in America, in cities all across this country?  Families facing the threat of eviction.

This nation has suffered too much for much too long.  And everything in this package is designed to relieve the suffering and to meet the most urgent needs of the nation and put us in a better position to prevail, starting with beating this virus and vaccinating the country. 

The resources in this plan will be used to expand and speed up manufacturing and distribution of vaccines so we can get every single American vaccinated sooner than later.  I believe by — we’ll have enough by the end of — by the middle of May to vaccinate.  It’s going to take longer to take longer to get it in their arm, but that’s how much vaccine we’ll have.

Because of all the funding, we’ll be able to hire more vaccinators, set up more vaccination sites to get the country in a place to get back to normal.  This plan will get checks out the door, starting this month, to the American people who so desperately need the help, many of whom are lying in bed at night, staring at the ceiling, wondering, “Will I lose my job, if I haven’t already?  Will I lose my insurance?  Will I lose my home?”

Over 85 percent of American households will get direct payments of $1,400 per person.  For a typical middle-class family of four — husband and wife working, making $100,000 a year total, with three kids — they’ll get $5,600 — I mean, with two kids — will get $5,600, and it’ll be on the way soon.

That means the mortgage can get paid.  That means the child can stay in community college.  That means maintaining the health insurance you have.  It’s going to make a big difference
in so many of lives in this country.

Unemployment benefits will be extended for 11 million Americans who have lost their jobs and who, last night, again were lying in bed, just thinking, “My lord, I’m going to lose my unemployment insurance in a week or so.”  It was about to expire.

Schools are going to have the resources they need to open safely.  States and local governments that have lost tens of thousands of essential workers will be — have the resources they need available to them, to those laid-off police officers, firefighters, teachers, and nurses they can rehire.  These are essential personnel.

Look, the American Rescue Plan lowers healthcare premiums.  Food and nutrition assistance.  It’s hard to believe that 24 million adults and 11 million children, as I speak, in the United States suffer from food insecurity.  That means, simply, they don’t have enough food to eat.  Did you ever imagine in the United States of America, you’d see lines, literally miles long — kids — folks in their automobiles, waiting for a box of food to be put in their trunk.  I stood in line, handing out food.  The people coming up never, ever, ever thought they’d be in that position. 

This helps families who are behind on their rent and their mortgage payments so they aren’t thrown out of their homes. 

Look, the bottom line is this:  This plan puts us on the path to beating the virus.  This plan gives those
families who are struggling the most the help and the breathing room they need to get through this moment.  This plan gives small businesses in this country a fighting chance to survive.

And one more thing: This plan is historic.  Taken altogether, this plan is going to make it possible to cut child poverty in half.  Let me say that again — it’s significant, historic: It will cut child poverty in half.

There’s much more to this bill, but, for now, let me make one final point.  When I was elected, I said we were going to get the government out of the business of battling on Twitter and back in the business of delivering for the American people, of making a difference in their lives, giving everyone a chance — a fighting chance, of showing the American people that their government can work for them.  And passing the American Rescue Plan will do that.

And, you know, it may sound strange, but a lot of senators and congressmen I want to thank, but I really want to thank the American people for making all of this possible.  You say, “Well, how do they make it possible?”  Well, quite frankly, without the overwhelming bipartisan support of the American people, this would not have happened.  Your elected officials heard you.  Overwhelming public support — every public opinion poll shows overwhelming support for this plan.  And for the last weeks, it’s shown that.  Every public opinion poll shows the people want this, they believe it’s needed, and they believe it’s urgent. 

And now this bill returns to the House of Representatives, which has done a great job from the beginning, where I hope it will find quick passage so it can be sent to my desk to be signed into law.

By passing the American Rescue Plan, we’ll have heeded the voice of the American people, not ignored their voices.  By passing this plan, we will have delivered real, tangible results for the American people and their families, and they’ll be able to see and know and feel the change in their own lives.  And by passing this plan, we’ll have proved that this government, this democracy can still work.  What has to be done — it’ll improve people’s lives.  

And one more thing: The vast majority of economists — left, right, and center — from Wall Street to the — to the private — private economic polling initiatives — the economists — as I’ve said, left, right, and center — say, “In addition to the needs the people have, we need this to grow the economy.”  That if we haven’t spent this money and recreated the kind of incentive for people to be able to make a good living, that we’d be in real trouble. 

This will create millions of new jobs — it’s estimated over 6 million new jobs by itself; increase the Gross Domestic Product by a trillion dollars; put our nation in a position to out-compete the rest of the world — because the rest of the world is moving, particularly China; and to know that as tough as this moment is, there are brighter days ahead.  There really are. 

As I’ve said before, it’s never a good bet to bet against America.  It’s never been a good bet to bet against the American people.  We are America.  We’re going to get there.  We’re going to remain the leading economy in the world and going to be the most successful economy in the world because of you, the American people.

Thank you, and God bless you all.  May God protect our troops.  Thank you.

Q    Mr. President, why do you think you didn’t get a single Republican vote, and what does the drama of the last 24 hours, including with Senator Manchin, tell you about the next four years?

THE PRESIDENT:  They’re going to be good.  I’m going to succeed.  We’re going to succeed moving forward.

Look, the American people strongly support what we’re doing.  That’s the key here.  And that’s going to continue to seep down through the public, including from our Republican friends.  There’s a lot of Republicans who came very close.  They’ve got a lot of pressure on them.  I still haven’t given up on getting their support. 

Thank you.

Q    (Inaudible) the compromises?

THE PRESIDENT:  Pardon?

Q    Your message to House Democrats who were frustrated with some of the compromises in the Senate bill, particularly —

THE PRESIDENT:  They’re not frustrated.  Bernie Sanders said this is the most progressive bill he’s ever seen passed since he’s been here.  And the compromises were all compromises that didn’t affect the substance and the essence of what the bill is.  Going from $300 — from $400 to $300, to the unemployment excess.  Well, it got extended until September.  The end result is the essentially about the same.  And so, I don’t think any of the compromises have in any way fundamentally altered the essence of what I put in the bill in the first place.

Thank you.

2:14 P.M. EST

Chief White House Correspondent for

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

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