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Biden: ‘We Need to Act Like We’re in a National Emergency’

Following the nearly 30 executive orders he signed since taking office on Wednesday, some of which rolled back his predecessor’s orders, President Biden followed with two more Friday aimed at jolting the American economy.

One order seeks the Department of Agriculture’s in fighting food insecurity by expanding the food stamp program SNAP to expand benefits to those at the lowest income levels and provide additional benefits to families with children. Another instructs the Labor Department to consider allowing those who elect to leave a job because of Covid-related health concerns to receive unemployment benefits. He’s also asking his administration to prepare an order that would require federal contractors to pay their workers a minimum wage of $15 an hour.

In keeping with a proposed $1.9 trillion economic stimulus plan, the Biden administration’s focus remains on rebuilding the economy and fighting the coronavirus pandemic. The president understands that the two are inextricably linked, and that more actions aimed at fighting the Covid-19 crisis are on the horizon.

The viral outbreak is “not getting better,” Biden said Friday. “It’s only deepening.”

The president also pointed to the 900,000 Americans who filed for first-time jobless claims last week.

“This is the United States of America,” he said. “We cannot, will not, let people go hungry. We cannot watch people lost their jobs. We have to act. We have to act now.”

However, the president is keenly aware of the challenges ahead, from the growing the housing crisis as 14 million Americans have fallen behind in rent payments and risk eviction, to strained city and state budgets impacted by the pandemic. Small businesses, he said, remain the glue that holds communities together.

“We’re in a national emergency. We need to act like we’re in a national emergency, so we’re going to move with everything we’ve got and we need to do it together,” he said, adding, “We have the tools to get through this.”

As Biden and his administration quickly proceed with plans to obtain bipartisan support for their proposed stimulus plan, senators are expected to begin a Senate impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump next week. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday that she plans to send over the article of impeachment—it charges Trump with “incitement of insurrection“—to the Senate on Monday.

That action ordinarily would have triggered a requirement that the Senate must begin its trial by Tuesday. However, the Senate has agreed to begin the trial during the week of Feb. 8, according to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer Friday afternoon. The two-week delay would also free up the calendar so Senators can proceed first with confirmation of Biden’s Cabinet nominations. First up for her confirmation hearing will be Janet Yellen, former Chair of the Federal Reserve, who was nominated by Biden to be the first female Treasury Secretary. She already has been unanimously approved by the Senate Finance Committee.

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