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Saturday, February 27, 2021

U.S. Marks 500,000 COVID-19 Deaths, Battle Escalates Over $1.9T ‘Relief’ Bill with $1T in Non-COVID Spending

WASHINGTON – The U.S. has now topped 500,000 coronavirus deaths, a grim milestone that more than doubles the highest estimates from last spring. 

President Joe Biden paid tribute to the victims Monday at the White House. 

“We often hear of people described as ‘ordinary Americans.’ There’s no such thing,” said Biden. “There’s nothing ordinary about them. The people we lost were extraordinary.” 

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Flags flew at half-staff Monday and at the National Cathedral, bells rang 500 times – once for every thousand deaths. 

As the nation grieves, hope does appear to be on the horizon. The average daily number of cases is down 74 percent from last month and the average number of deaths is down 38 percent in just the last five days. 

Add to that, more Americans are getting vaccinated. As of this weekend, more than 13 percent of Americans have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. Six percent have received two. 

Johnson & Johnson says they’ll deliver 20 million single-dose shots by the end of March if the company gets FDA emergency authorization. That could happen as soon as this weekend.

READ: What You Need to Know About the Leading Coronavirus Vaccines

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill the House Budget Committee has approved Biden’s nearly two trillion dollar COVID relief bill, teeing it up for a final vote in the House later this week.  

The two parties disagree on the size of the $1.9 trillion package because it involves so much deficit spending.

The plan includes $1,400 stimulus checks for most Americans and an extension of $400 weekly federal unemployment benefits.

But Republicans object to many of the provisions in the bill, leading the president to say, “Let me ask them: What would they have me cut? What would they have me leave out?”

One provision Republicans object to involves money to make schools safer during this pandemic – but that funding is not conditioned on schools reopening. 

“This idea that Washington should be giving out $100-plus billion of new money to schools and not even requiring them to reopen, that’s an insult to those children who are demanding they go back to school,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) said.

A Wall Street Journal editorial estimates that only about $825 billion of the bill relates to COVID relief, and the remaining trillion is a “combination of bailouts for Democratic constituencies, expansions of progressive programs, pork, and unrelated policy changes.”

Republican Nancy Mace tweeted a few examples from the bill: 

  • $86 billion in union pension bailouts
  • $35 billion for an Obamacare bailout
  • $1.5 billion for an Amtrak bailout
  • and $1 billion in foreign food aid

Mace called the bill a liberal blowout and said “stop calling it COVID relief”.

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