US Democrats file budget resolution for Covid-19 relief

Washington: US Democratic leaders have filed a joint budget resolution for fiscal year 2021 that could pave the way for Congress to quickly pass President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief proposal, with or without help from the Republicans.

Congress has a responsibility to quickly deliver immediate comprehensive relief to the American people hurting from Covid-19, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement on Monday night.

The cost of inaction is high and growing, and the time for decisive action is now. With this budget resolution, the Democratic Congress is paving the way for the landmark Biden-Harris coronavirus package that will crush the virus and deliver real relief to families and communities in need, the Democratic leaders said.

As Republicans have voiced opposition against Biden’s relief proposal, the budget resolution would help Democrats push the relief proposal through the Senate with a simple majority, rather than the 60 votes needed for most legislation, according to local media.

The party breakdown in the Senate is 50-50 now, with Vice President Kamala Harris having the power to cast the tie-breaking vote to give Democrats the majority.

Biden on Monday signaled that he would not back down from his demand for the $1.9 trillionrelief package named the ‘American Rescue Plan’, after a nearly two-hour meeting with a group of 10 Republican senators at the White House.

The package includes over $400 billion to combat the pandemic directly such as more funding for testing and vaccine distribution; roughly $1 trillion in direct relief to households; and over $400 billion for hard-hit small businesses and communities.

“While there were areas of agreement, the President also reiterated his view that Congress must respond boldly and urgently, and noted many areas which the Republican senators’ proposal does not address, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Monday night in a statement.

He reiterated that while he is hopeful that the Rescue Plan can pass with bipartisan support, a reconciliation package is a path to achieve that end, Psaki said, adding the President will not settle for a package that fails to meet the moment.

A group of Republican senators led by Susan Collins from the state of Maine on Monday morning unveiled their $618 billion Covid-19 relief proposal, falling short of Democrats’ demands.

It was a very good exchange of views. I wouldn’t say that we came together on a package tonight. No one expected that in a two-hour meeting, Collins told reporters after the meeting with Biden.

But what we did agree to do is to follow up and talk further at the staff level and amongst ourselves and with the President and Vice President on how we can continue to work together on this very important issue, Collins said.