On Saturday, President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill gets passed. After an all-night vote and a 12-hour long struggle to gain the support of one Democrat support, the bill has finally passed the Senate.
The vote was 50 to 49 on a party-line vote. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced that on Tuesday, the House will vote on the relief bill to gain approval on the changes made in the Senate, and then it will go to President Joe Biden to be signed into law.
President Joe Biden praised the Senate passage in remarks from the White House Saturday afternoon, touting his plan’s widespread public support even if it didn’t earn any Republican votes.
“By passing this plan, we’ll have proved that this government, this democracy, can still work. It has to be done. It will improve people’s lives,” Biden said.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer defended the COVID relief bill’s passage along party lines, saying it showed the Republicans that they could do it alone.
However, Democrats have faced fierce pressure to stay united to pass the administration’s top legislative priority before March 14, when jobless benefits are set to expire for millions of Americans. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin’s unexpected opposition on Friday to a Democratic deal boosting unemployment benefits ground the Senate to a halt, prompting a furious lobbying effort between the two parties.
Democrats kept a Senate roll call vote open for 11 hours and 50 minutes, the longest in recent history, as Manchin signaled he would accept the Republicans’ less generous proposal.
The dispute was a sign of the centrist Democrat’s power in the 50-50 Senate, where Democrats control the narrowest possible majority, and an example of how a single senator can derail the President’s agenda.
After a long consultation on Friday evening, and with a flurry of other amendments to consider, Manchin finally agreed to extend $300 weekly unemployment benefits through September 6, about a month earlier than what Democrats had envisioned. The West Virginia Democrat also limited a provision to make the first $10,200 in benefits nontaxable apply only to households making less than $150,000.
“We have reached a compromise that enables the economy to rebound quickly while also protecting those receiving unemployment benefits from being hit with unexpected tax bills next year,” said Manchin in a statement.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday evening that Biden “supports the compromise agreement, and is grateful to all the Senators who worked so hard to reach this outcome.”
The nearly $2 trillion package includes up to $1,400 stimulus checks to many Americans, and billions of dollars for states and municipalities, schools, small businesses, and vaccine distribution.
It also extends a 15% increase in food stamp benefits from June to September, helps low-income households cover rent, makes federal premium subsidies for Affordable Care Act policies more generous, and gives $8.5 billion for struggling rural hospitals and health care providers.
Senator Susan Collins of Maine pushed to replace Biden’s bill with a $650 billion version. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida wanted to tie school funding to reopening requirements.
The first, extraordinarily long amendment vote on a measure to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, introduced by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, was an early test of Democratic party unity.
The Senate’s effort to pass the $1.9 trillion legislation kicked into high gear on Thursday when Democratic senators and Vice President Kamala Harris voted to open debate. Republicans then forced the 628-page bill to be read aloud.
Schumer, a New York Democrat, criticized Republican tactics to slow down the process and on Friday thanked the Senate floor staff for the nearly 11 hours of reading the bill, calling them “the unsung heroes of this place.”
The Democratic-controlled House passed the legislation at the end of last month, along with an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour. However, the Senate parliamentarian ruled that the wage hike could not be included in the Senate’s version of the bill under reconciliation. That change and others, including the alterations to jobless benefits, will force the House to vote again on the legislation, which is expected to happen next week.