- The Washington Times - Friday, March 5, 2021

President Joseph R. Biden said Friday the American Rescue Plan Act making its way through Congress will help lift up millions of American - including those that are worried that their enhanced unemployment benefits will run out. 

Mr. Biden said the package will ease the financial burden on the unemployed, help keep children fed, and provide assistance to those behind on rent.

“The American Rescue Plan, I believe, and according to the polling data the vast majority of Americans believe, is essential to giving them some help - and to turn it around,” Mr. Biden said. “I think it is going to provide relief for millions of people.”

Mr. Biden said the nation has administered over 82 COVID-19 vaccination shots - putting it on pace to reach his goal of 100 million shots over the first 100 days of his administration.

The comments came during a roundtable at The White House on the $1.9 trillion plan. 

Barring a major surprise the legislation could pass the Senate as early as Saturday.

The final bill is wading its way through the Senate, where lawmakers on Friday kicked off a so-called “vote-a-rama” session on a series of amendments to the plan.

The session is testing the unity of Democrats, who control a 50-50 Senate because Vice President Kamala Harris has the tie-breaking vote.

Given strong GOP opposition to the legislation, Democrats don’t have much wiggle room.

That became clear Friday after the votes on amendments stalled as Democrats wrestled over the details of the enhanced unemployment benefits included in the bill.

The bill had sought to boost enhanced federal unemployment benefits to $400 per week from $300 per week, and extend them through September. 

The proposal proved to be too much for some moderate Democrats. 

It appeared more likely they were headed toward an agreement that would extend the $300 enhanced benefit through September. 

Lawmakers also were discussing a provision that would forgive $10,200 in taxes on unemployment benefits received in 2020.

Members, meanwhile, rejected the push from Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont to raise the federal minimum wage to $15, raising doubts about the effort going forward. 

Eight members of the Democratic caucus, including Independent Sen. Angus King of Maine, joined forces with Republicans to block the push in a procedural vote.

The amendment process got underway after Sen. Ron Johnson, Wisconsin Republican, delayed things more by forcing the clerk of the Senate to read the entire bill. 

It took 10 hours and 44 minutes.

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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