21:27 GMT17 April 2021
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    The US Senate narrowly passed the COVID relief plan in a 50-49 party line vote in the upper chamber of Congress. Republicans opposed the bill and condemned the Democrats for giving up on Biden's promises of "unity" and the idea of negotiating the plan's contents with the GOP.

    The American Rescue Plan passed by the US Senate on 6 March was apparently not only about helping pandemic-hit US households. During his speech, US President Joe Biden hailed the bill, claiming it would put the "nation in a position to outcompete the rest of the world", specifically China.

    The Democratic president argued that this effect of the nearly enacted bill was as important as helping US businesses and families in tough times, "because the rest of the world is moving, particularly China".

    The Democrat's statements come as his administration has effectively painted China as America's main "geopolitical test" and hinted at taking economic steps against the Asian country, should Washington find its trade practices inappropriate.

    Beijing, for its part, stated earlier in February that it does not seek to take America's place in the world or challenge Washington in any way. The head of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Chinese Communist Party, Yang Jiechi, said the country does not plan on dividing the world into spheres of interest with the US.

    Democrats Pushing Coronavirus Relief Bill Despite GOP Opposition

    In his address, Biden thanked "all [of the] senators" for working hard to "reach a compromise" and for voting to pass the COVID relief plan. The 6 March Senate vote, however, showed little indication of the said compromise as the bill was passed in a vote that went along party lines, with all Republicans present voting against the bill. The two parties earlier negotiated and passed a previous round of pandemic relief in December, when the Senate was dominated by the GOP.

    GOP Congressmen repeatedly condemned the bill as a "loss" for the American people and not the "victory" the Democrats claim it to be. The Republicans sought to significantly reduce the $1.9 trillion piece of legislation. The two parties, however, failed to find common ground in both chambers of Congress, with Democrats rushing to pass the bill before unemployment benefits expire later next week.

    Under the American Rescue Plan all American citizens meeting the income threshold will be eligible to receive a $1,400 payment. The Democratic Senators also included a provision for a $300 a week boost to the unemployment benefits through 29 August, but excluded proposals to add a $15 per hour minimum wage to the mix. The provision is a slight downgrade of Biden's proposal of a $400 boost effective through September.

    The Democrats' coronavirus relief bill also features aid to state and local goverments in their struggles to contain the pandemic, as well as small businesses, which sustained great losses throughout 2020 due to the lockdowns and overall economic impact of the coronavirus. The updated Rescue Plan is now headed back to the House for additional approval before it lands on Biden's desk.

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    Tags:
    relief, pandemic, coronavirus, COVID-19, US, Joe Biden
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