US President Joe Biden addressed the nation on Friday to discuss his administration's efforts to tackle the economic downfalls prompted by the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, stressing that he will move forward without Republican support if needed.
"The economy is still in trouble," Biden told the public. The "one in a century virus has decimated our economy ... we're still in the teeth of this pandemic."
Although new cases and hospitalizations related to COVID-19 have started to subside somewhat, the pandemic death toll has continued to surge, with January being marked as the deadliest month thus far. To date, the US has reported over 456,000 COVID-19 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
"I'm going to act. I'm going to act fast," Biden said. "I'd like to be doing it with the support of Republicans ... But they're just not willing to go as far as I think we have to go."
The commander-in-chief underscored that while he preferred bipartisan work on offering Americans COVID-19 relief, it would be an "easy choice" to put bipartisan efforts aside in favor of providing adequate assistance to struggling Americans "now."
Moments after Biden's remarks, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters during a briefing that the Biden administration is "not going to sit here and wait" for Republican support on a measure "when we haven't even received an offer."
Vaccine is 'Job Number One'
In announcing his plans, Biden explained his administration's COVID-19 relief will direct $160 billion into the national COVID-19 strategy to bolster manufacturing, distribution and establishing vaccinations sites across the nation.
"Anything that's needed to get vaccine in peoples' arms," Biden said, adding that "job number one is vaccines."
The second focus of his administration's efforts would be providing financial support to the American public, assistance that will include the $1,400 stimulus checks that were initially proposed, extension of the unemployment insurance, rental assistance, health insurance coverage and ensuring that essential personnel do not lose their jobs, among other measures.
"It's better economics," Biden remarked, noting that his plan would not only address the "immediate crisis," but also promote economic growth in the future.
Biden's address came amid the release of the latest job report, which detailed that while the economy added 49,000 payrolls, America's jobs recovery is losing steam. In fact, the US is still down nearly 10 million jobs, with the unemployment rate leveling at 6.3%.
Congressional Efforts to Push COVID-19 Relief Package
Earlier, hours before Biden's address, the US Senate approved a budget plan for the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan, with US Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie with a 51-50 vote.
The budget resolution is effectively a shell bill and only provides instructions to congressional committees on drafting COVID-19 legislation under reconciliation, an arcane tool that Democrats used so lawmakers could advance the measure through a simple majority.
The measure is now due to be tossed back to the US House since Senate lawmakers made changes to the resolution when it was initially introduced. A vote on the resolution is expected later Friday.
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has indicated that the chamber anticipates passing a COVID-19 relief bill within the next two weeks, with officials starting next Monday on filtering through the specifics of the bill.
However, legislation in the Senate is likely to be stalled as the chamber begins proceedings in Trump's second impeachment trial next week.