Biden ready to go it alone on COVID relief

Josh Boak
·2-min read

President Joe Biden has laid out his case for moving fast and without Republicans, if necessary, to pass his $SU1.9 trillion ($A2.5 trillion) coronavirus relief package.

The stakes for the country and economy were amplified on Friday morning by the release of the government's jobs report for January, which showed that hiring had stalled to a pace that could hinder a return to full employment for several years.

Some 406,000 people left the labour force last month as deaths from the pandemic have surged.

"A lot of folks are losing hope," Biden said in a speech at the White House on Friday.

"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."

The jobs report landed shortly after Senate Democrats cast a decisive vote to muscle the COVID relief plan through the chamber without Republican support, a step toward final approval next month.

Vice-President Kamala Harris cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate, her first.

Biden's speech solidified a marked shift in tone and strategy for a president who entered the White House pledging bipartisanship and met on Monday with 10 Republican senators pushing a slimmed-down $US618 billion alternative.

Biden said that aid at that level would only prolong the economic pain.

Senate Democrats applauded after Harris announced the chamber's 51-50 vote on the budget measure about 5.30am following a gruelling all-night session.

Following Senate approval, the House passed the measure 219-209 on Friday afternoon, also without a Republican vote.

The coronavirus aid package can now work its way through congressional committees with the goal of finalising additional relief by mid-March, when extra unemployment assistance and other pandemic aid expires.

"We have been focused like a laser on getting this done," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

"We hope to be able to put vaccines in people's arms, money in people's pockets, children safely in schools and workers in their jobs. That's what we are doing now."