'Economy still in trouble,' Biden urges quick relief

"It's very clear that our economy is still in trouble," Biden said in an address to the nation. "I see enormous pain in this country. I am going to act fast."

The House of Representatives approved a budget measure on Friday that enables Democrats to move Biden's relief package through Congress without Republican support in a process that will likely take weeks.

The Senate approved it in a pre-dawn vote with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote in the Senate for the first time.

The budget resolution enables Democrats to pass Biden's COVID-19 relief plan by a simple majority in the 100-member Senate instead of the 60 votes required for most legislation. That means Democrats, who control 50 seats in the 100-seat chamber, might not need Republican votes.

Democrats have a 10-seat majority in the House.

Republicans have floated a $600 billion aid package, less than a third the size of the Democratic plan. Even some Democrats, like Larry Summers, an economic adviser to former President Barack Obama, have warned that Biden might be spending too much.

Biden said he was open to compromise with Republicans as long as they did not slow things down.

"If I have to choose between getting help right now to Americans who are hurting so badly and getting bogged down in a lengthy negotiation ... that's an easy choice. I'm going to help the American people hurting now," he said.

Video Transcript

JOE BIDEN: It's very clear our economy is still in trouble. We're still in the teeth of this pandemic. In fact, January was the single, deadliest month of the whole pandemic. So I'm going to act, and I'm going to act fast. I'd like to be, I'd like to be doing it with the support of Republicans. I've met with Republicans, there's some really fine people wanna get something done, but they're just not willing to go as far as I think we have to go.

I see enormous pain in this country. A lot of folks out of work. A lot of folks going hungry, staring at the ceiling tonight wondering, what am I gonna do tomorrow? And I believe the American people are looking right now to their government for help, to do our job, to not let them down.

So job number one of the American rescue plan is vaccines. Vaccines. The second, the American rescue plan is going to keep the commitment of $2,000. 600 has already gone out, $1,400 checks to people who need it. And here's what I won't do. I'm not cutting the size of the checks. They're going to be $1,400, period. That's what the American people were promised.

What Republicans have proposed is either to do nothing, or not enough. All of a sudden, many of them have rediscovered fiscal restraint and the concern for the deficits. But don't kid yourself. This approach will come with a cost. More pain for more people, for longer than it has to be.

So to me, this is, this is what this moment comes down to. Are we going to pass a big enough package to vaccinate people, to get people back to work, to alleviate the suffering in this country this year? That's what I want to do. Or are we going to say to millions of Americans are out of work, many of whom have been out of work for six months or longer, who've been scarred by this economic and public health crisis, don't worry, hang on. Things are gonna get better. We're gonna go smaller, so it's going to take us a lot longer. Like until 2025. That's the Republican answer right now. I can't, in good conscience, do that.