Senate Passes “American Rescue Plan”
After contentious debate, the Senate approved a $1.9 trillion dollar plan to aid those struggling in the pandemic. This was the first major piece of legislation from the new Democratic administration, and gave a telling look into how politics will play out in the next few years. Although hopes for bipartisanship ran high during inauguration, they quickly faded as it became clear neither side of the aisle intended to budge. In both chambers of Congress, Democrats hold a shaky majority, requiring nearly unanimous support by the party to pass legislation. This was tested as moderate Democrats, most notably Joe Manchin of West Virginia, took issue with certain parts of the aid bill. Bending under threats to withdraw support, Democrats removed a segment meant to increase federal minimum wage to $15 dollars. The bill bolsters unemployment benefits set to expire soon, and direct payments to individuals, including $250 per child between 6 and 17. Now, it must be approved by the House, and signed into law by the President.
President Biden has announced that by May of this year, enough vaccines will be available to be administered to every single adult in the nation. This is a huge step forward and will make an immense difference to all our futures. Following a new manufacturing deal with Merck & Co, Johnson and Johnson has agreed to produce more doses at a faster rate, putting us on the path to reaching our May goal of full vaccination. Just like the Pfizer and Moderna doses, the Johnson and Johnson vaccine was proven safe and effective. Over 50 million people have already been given at least one dose, and over 25 million are fully vaccinated, many more are getting shots every day. Biden compared this deal to deals that were made in wartime, due to the pressing urgency and and national crisis. It is a monumental event in American history, representing unity, prosperity and our ability to keep moving forward.
States Lift Restrictions as Numbers Fall
Texas has completely lifted its state-wide mask mandate, joining Iowa, Montana, North Dakota, and Mississippi in the relaxed measure. Experts, including CDC head Rochelle Walensky, have condemned the action, calling it overconfident and reckless. “We stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground that we have gained,” she said. Easing restrictions as vaccine rollout and falling cases begin to give hope is premature and may lead to a longer path to recovery. New York retains its mask mandate.