Coronavirus

Joe Biden scores legislative win as US House passes trillion-dollar COVID-19 relief bill

US President Joe Biden in the Oval Office Source: AP

The US President has called on the Senate to quickly vote on the $A2.5 trillion pandemic relief billl, saying there was 'no time to waste'.

US President Joe Biden has called on the Senate to quickly vote on a $US1.9 trillion ($A2.5 trillion) pandemic relief bill, hours after the proposal passed the House of Representatives.

The bill is a cornerstone of Mr Biden's economic recovery plan for the United States, and its passage in Congress would mark his first major legislative achievement as president.

"Now the bill moves to the United States Senate, where I hope it will receive quick action. We have no time to waste," Mr Biden said in brief remarks delivered at the White House.

"If we act now - decisively, quickly and boldly - we can finally get ahead of this virus, we can finally get our economy moving again.

"The people of this country have suffered far too much for too long. We need to relieve that suffering."

The House of Representatives, dominated by Mr Biden's Democrats, approved the bill by a narrow majority of 219 to 212. The next step is for the Senate to consider the House bill, possibly make changes to it, and then vote on it.

Mr Biden's proposal was dealt a setback in the Senate after the official in charge of procedural rules in the upper chamber ruled that a nationwide hike in the minimum wage to $US15 ($A19) per hour could not be attached to the legislation.

The wage hike was a priority for the White House, but its cancellation could help the relief bill's chances of passing in the Senate, where the provision had been less popular.

The size of Mr Biden's proposed measures would be equivalent to nearly 10 per cent of US economic output.

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Republicans oppose such a large package, but Democrats control both chambers of Congress, albeit just barely in the Senate.

Mr Biden says the package will boost the economy and create millions of new jobs.

Among other things, it provides for direct payments to private households, funding measures for coronavirus tests and for the distribution of vaccines, as well as additional aid for the unemployed.

The bill needs to be approved by Congress before unemployment insurance benefits expire on 14 March.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your jurisdiction's restrictions on gathering limits.

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.
 
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