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COVID-19 relief: Democrats may go at it alone

(NBC News) --- President Joe Biden is making passage of a new $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill his top priority.

Republicans say the plan costs too much, and want to break it into smaller bills. 

With extended unemployment benefits for many Americans forced out of work by the pandemic running out in just over a month, Democrats want to vote next week, with or without Republican support.

They've indicated they're willing to use the budget reconciliation process to pass the bill if there aren't enough Republican votes in the Senate.

Meanwhile, distributing vaccines has taken on a new urgency.

The new South African strain of coronavirus has been confirmed in two South Carolina patients.

"We know that these two people did not know one another and that they did not travel to South Africa. So, the presumption is at this point that there has been community spread of this strain and so yes that is among the concern," says Centers for Disease Control Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

It's unclear how well the current vaccines can fight the new versions of this virus.

Read more: http://nbcnews.to/3r8EWsh

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