President Joe Biden said the $1,400 direct payments to most Americans will begin going out “this month.” His promise comes after the Senate passed the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package along party lines.
“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?'” Biden said March 6 during a press conference at the White House.
Earlier on March 6, the Senate approved the behemoth relief bill on a party-line 50–49 vote. One Republican senator was absent from the vote due to a family funeral, which allowed Democrats to pass the bill without the need for a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris.
Biden said that over 85 percent of U.S. households will get direct payments of $1,400. This means that a typical middle-class family of a working couple with two children, making about $100,000 annually, could receive $5,600, he said.
“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,” Biden said. The American Rescue Plan was one of Biden’s campaign promises.
But Republican lawmakers have expressed differing views about the purpose of the bill.
Republican lawmakers are taking issue with the bill for its excessive spending, arguing that the bill wasn’t directly targeted to provide relief for the CCP virus pandemic. Congress had already passed a $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill along with a $1.4 trillion annual federal spending package less than three months ago.
The lawmakers are also concerned that Democrats moved forward with the bill through a partisan process that contained only light input from Republicans.
Senate Democrats rejected all but three proposed Republican amendments to the bill. Republicans had attempted to add provisions that provided transparency and investigations into COVID-19 nursing home deaths, sought to ensure that schools remained open at least half the time for half the students, and provide relief to families that were impacted by the canceled Keystone XL pipeline amid the pandemic.
At a March 5 press conference, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.), and several other Senate Republicans denounced what they said was a partisan process around passing the relief bill, calling Biden’s previous calls for unity “hollow” and denouncing the American Rescue Plan as “bloated, wasteful, and partisan.”
“They’ve chosen a partisan path. And the reason we’re not doing it together now is they don’t want to do it together. They’ve got a wish list that’s unrelated to COVID that none of us are going to buy into,” Graham said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) criticized Democrats for failing to deliver on their promise to unify the country, saying that they had rammed through a bill that failed to garner bipartisan support.
“The voters gave the Democrats the slimmest majority. The voters picked a president who promised bipartisanship. The Democrats’ response is to ram through what they call, quote, the most Progressive domestic legislation in a generation on a razor-thin majority in both houses,” he said on the Senate floor.
The bill will be returned to the House for reconciliation, which is expected to happen early this week.
Tom Ozimek contributed to this report.