(Washington) U.S. senators still voted Saturday morning on a long series of amendments to Joe Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion stimulus package, a marathon session Democrats hoped to conclude with a crucial vote this weekend.
The Democrats have a narrow majority in the Senate and their leader Chuck Schumer has shown himself convinced that he can pass the plan “this week”.
But the examination of the text, started Thursday, dragged on Saturday.
On Friday evening, the senators entered into a “vote-a-rama”, a marathon procedure in which they can propose dozens of amendments and demand a vote on each.
The opportunity for the Republican opposition, which considers the Biden plan too expensive and not sufficiently targeted, to present its complaints.
The sun was shining on the Capitol on Saturday morning and the votes continued, after already more than twenty amendments.
A faint cry of joy rose in the early hours of the morning as senators, many of whom are elderly, reached a rare consensus to unanimously approve a former military amendment.
A rare compromise in a procedure marked by the division between Democrats and Republicans.
$ 1,400 checks
The Democrats’ plan includes checks for $ 1,400 for millions of Americans, as well as $ 350 billion in aid to states and local communities.
The text also provides billions of dollars to fight the pandemic, including 49 billion for screening and research, in addition to 14 billion for the distribution of the vaccine.
The bill will then return next week to the Democratic-majority House of Representatives for a final vote, before being enacted by the US president.
Time is running out for Democrats who want to implement this plan by March 14, before the scheduled suspension of unemployment benefit payments to millions of Americans.
The examination of the text began with the reading, forced by a Republican, of the 628 pages of the bill for nearly 11 hours, until the night of Thursday to Friday.
Then, on Friday, the procedure was suddenly paralyzed by the opposition of a conservative Democratic senator to a key device of this gigantic aid plan, supposed to keep afloat the world’s largest economy severely affected by the pandemic.
A snub for the Democratic leader, and the White House which publicly supported this amendment on unemployment benefits. They had finally reached an agreement in the evening, reducing the duration of the aid.
Joe Biden hammered on Friday the need to adopt his plan without delay, tempering the enthusiasm created by good employment figures in the United States unveiled on Friday, a sign that heralds a mini-economic boom in the spring.
In February, 379,000 jobs were created, nearly three times more than in January, the Labor Department announced in the morning.
But it will still take time to return to pre-pandemic levels: 18 million Americans are still receiving an allowance, after losing their jobs or seeing their income plunge.
“At this rate, it will take two years to get back to the nails” and regain the level of February 2020, warned the US president.
Bars and restaurants, which have suffered particularly since the start of the crisis, are the ones that have hired the most last month. The ban on serving indoors has in fact been relaxed in some regions.
Other activities related to recreation and accommodation, as well as health services, retail, manufacturing, also created new positions.
And the country’s businesses are especially putting themselves in battle order for the announced mini-economic boom.
From the spring, consumption should indeed jump, driven by the vaccinations carried out with full speed, and by the public aid distributed since the start of the crisis which, coupled with falling spending, have filled Americans’ bank accounts, in particular more affluent.
According to Joe Biden, the good job creation figures are certainly due to the $ 900 billion stimulus plan that was adopted at the end of December and signed by his predecessor Donald Trump.
But without new aid, all of this “will slow down”, he warned, “we cannot take one step forward and two steps back”.
Its $ 1.9 trillion project would be the third windfall aid plan approved by Congress during the pandemic.