At 11:08 a.m. Pacific Time Thursday, President Joseph Biden sat down at his desk with the television cameras on and signed the much-debated $1.9 trillion stimulus measure.
“The president supports the compromise agreement and is grateful to all the senators who worked so hard to reach this outcome,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said in a statement.
Racing to have the bill signed into law before unemployment benefits begin to lapse on March 14, Democrats used a fast-track budget process, known as reconciliation, to protect it from filibusters and push it through on a simple majority vote.
With each party controlling 50 seats in the Senate, Democrats have only a one-vote margin thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris’s power to break ties.
The measure would send $1,400 checks to Americans earning $75,000 or less — or $112,000 for single parents and $150,000 for couples — with the stimulus payments falling gradually for those with incomes above those thresholds and disappearing altogether for those earning more than the income cap.
The president planned to use a first prime time address Thursday night to steer the nation toward a hungered-for sentiment — hope — in the “next phase” of the fight against the pandemic that had killed 529,000 Americans.
“This historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country,” Biden said as he signed the $1.9 trillion bill in the Oval Office.
The president originally planned to sign the bill on Friday, but it arrived at the White House more quickly than anticipated.
“We want to move as fast as possible,” tweeted White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain. He added, “We will hold our celebration at the signing on Friday, as planned, with congressional leaders.”
Previewing his remarks, Biden said he would “talk about what we’ve been through as a nation this past year, but more importantly, I’m going to talk about what comes next.”
Biden’s challenge Thursday night was to honor the sacrifices made by Americans over the last year while encouraging them to remain vigilant despite “virus fatigue” and growing impatience to resume normal activities given the tantalizing promise of vaccines.
Speaking on the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization’s declaration of the pandemic, he said he would mourn the dead, but also project optimism about the future.
“This is a chance for him to really beam into everybody’s living rooms and to be both the mourner in chief and to explain how he’s leading the country out of this,” presidential historian and Rice University professor Douglas Brinkley said.