Biden says ‘no time to waste’ for Senate to pass his Covid relief package

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden steps out of a motorcade vehicle after arriving at a FEMA COVID-19 mass vaccination site at NRG Stadium, Friday, Feb. 26, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Patrick Semansky/AP

(CNN) — President Joe Biden called on the US Senate to take “quick action” in passing his $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill, speaking just hours after House Democrats approved his first legislative priority.

“We have no time to waste. If we act now, decisively, quickly and boldly, we can finally get ahead of this virus. We can finally get our economy moving again, and the people of this country have suffered far too much for too long,” Biden said Saturday morning in brief remarks from the White House. “We need to relieve that suffering.”

The President spoke about the importance of passing the pandemic aid package and the pivotal role it will play in scaling up vaccination efforts and school re-openings.

“With their vote, we’re one step closer to vaccinating the nation. We are one step closer to putting $1,400 in the pockets of Americans. We are one step closer to extending the unemployment benefits for millions of Americans who are shortly going to lose them,” Biden said.

He continued, “We are one step closer to helping millions of Americans feed their families and keep a roof over their head. We’re one step closer getting our kids safely back in school. We are one step closer to getting state and local governments the money they need to prevent massive layoffs for essential workers.”

Biden also thanked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with whom he said he spoke with “just a few moments ago,” for her “extraordinary leadership.”

The House approved Biden’s Covid relief package early Saturday morning along party lines by a vote of 219-212, sending the bill to the Senate. It passed with no Republican support.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, railed against House Democrats in a statement Saturday for passing the legislation without any bipartisan support and accused them of having “jammed through a bill that even liberal economists and editorial boards say is not well targeted to this stage of the fight.”

The Senate is expected to strip out a provision in the legislation increasing the federal minimum wage after the Senate parliamentarian ruled against including it under the procedure known as reconciliation, which Senate Democrats are using to pass the bill with a simple majority vote.

The bill would then head back to the House for a separate vote before it reaches Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

The package advanced by House Democrats includes $1,400 direct checks to Americans making less than $75,000 annually, direct aid to small businesses, direct funding to state and local governments, funding for schools and more money for vaccine distribution.

This story has been updated with President Joe Biden’s remarks and a statement from Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell Saturday.