Biden, Democrats prevail as US Senate okays $1.9 trillion virus relief bill

An exhausted US Senate has narrowly approved a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill as US President Joe Biden and his Democratic allies notch a victory they call crucial for hoisting the country out of the pandemic and economic doldrums.

After laboring through the night on a mountain of amendments — nearly all from Republicans and rejected — bleary-eyed senators approve the sprawling package on a 50-49 party-line vote. That sets up final congressional approval by the House next week so lawmakers can send it to Biden for his signature.

“We tell the American people, help is on the way,” says Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat. Citing the country’s desire to resume normalcy, he adds: “Our job right now is to help our country get from this stormy present to that hopeful future.”

The huge package — its total spending is nearly one-tenth the size of the entire US economy — is Biden’s biggest early priority. It stands as his formula for addressing the deadly virus and a limping economy, twin crises that have afflicted the country for a year.