Biden Praises Senate After New Stimulus Package Passes: A 'Giant Step Forward' for COVID Relief

"This is the kind of progress that’s possible when we elect leaders across government who are devoted to making people’s lives better," said former President Barack Obama

President Joe Biden
President Joe Biden. Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty

The Senate has narrowly passed President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package after more than 24 hours of debate.

The marathon session began at 9 a.m. Friday and ended around 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, when the bill finally passed with a vote of 50-49. All Republicans voted against the package, while all Democrats, joined by Vice President Kamala Harris, voted yes.

The bill is set to provide direct payments of up to $1,400 for most Americans, extended emergency unemployment benefits, millions of dollars for COVID-19 vaccine distribution and testing, as well as funds for schools, colleges and hard-hit industries.

It will still need to pass a House vote on Tuesday before Biden can sign it into law, but the president was quick to praise the news as a "giant step forward" for providing relief to Americans as the country nears the one-year mark of the first pandemic stimulus package.

"When we took office 45 days ago, I promised the American people help was on the way. Today I can say we've taken one more giant step forward on delivering on that promise — that help is on the way," Biden told reporters on Saturday, according to CNN.

"Everything in this package is designed to relieve the suffering and to meet the most urgent needs of the nation and put us in a better position to prevail — starting with beating this virus and vaccinating the country," he said, thanking both the Senate and vice president.

Biden continued, "The resources in this plan will be used to expand and speed up manufacturing and distribution of vaccines so we can get every single American vaccinated sooner than later, I believe we'll have enough by the end of, by the middle of May to vaccinate. It's going to take longer to get it in their arms but that's how much vaccines we'll have."

Former President Barack Obama offered his congratulations to Biden on Saturday, writing on Twitter, "This is the kind of progress that's possible when we elect leaders across government who are devoted to making people's lives better—and a reminder of why it's so important to vote."

In another tweet, Obama wrote, "This landmark legislation will help families pay rent and put food on the table, lift millions of children out of poverty, make health care more affordable, aid small businesses, fund broad-based vaccination efforts, and make it easier for states to reopen schools."

In preparation for Tuesday's House of Representatives vote, Speaker Nancy Pelosi shared a statement inviting House Republicans to join her in passing the bill.

"Today is a day of great progress and promise for the American people, as the Democratic Senate has passed President Biden's American Rescue Plan to save lives and livelihoods," she said in the statement. "The House now hopes to have a bipartisan vote on this life-saving legislation and urges Republicans to join us in recognition of the devastating reality of this vicious virus and economic crisis and of the need for decisive action."

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from the CDC, WHO and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.

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