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Biden leaves Republicans behind to fast track $1.9tn bill

US President Joe Biden is forging ahead with plans to ram through a $1.9tn (£1.4tn) relief bill without Republican support after disappointing jobs data.

Despite an Obama-era economist’s warnings the stimulus package may be too big, Mr Biden vowed to “act fast”.

The new president’s fellow Democrats run Congress, and plan to pass the final bill using a budget manoeuvre.

Mr Biden’s speech is being seen by US media as a shift in tone after he entered office pledging bipartisanship.

He met 10 Republican senators at the White House on Monday in the hope of a breakthrough, but brushed off their counter-proposal for a slimmed-down $618bn coronavirus relief bill.

What did Biden say?

Speaking at the White House on Friday after meeting congressional Democratic leaders, he said: “A lot of folks are losing hope.

“I believe the American people are looking right now to their government for help, to do our job, to not let them down.

“So I’m going to act. I’m going to act fast. I’d like to be doing it with the support of Republicans. They’re just not willing to go as far as I think we have to go.”

Under the Biden-backed “American Rescue Plan”, $1,400 cheques would be sent directly to most Americans.

The Democratic president cited lower-than-expected numbers that showed the country added only 49,000 jobs in January.

The US economy remains 10 million jobs under its level before the Covid-19 pandemic, which has now killed nearly 460,000 Americans.

Mr Biden said: “Are we going to say to millions of Americans who are out of work – many out of work for six months or longer, who have been scared by this economic and public health crisis – ‘Don’t worry, hang on, things are going to get better.’

“That’s the Republican answer right now. I can’t in good conscience do that.”

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