The US Senate concluded a marathon voting session on Saturday, passing President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill 50-49 with all democrats for and all republicans against. The vote wrapped up a days-long process of debate and deliberation over the relief package. The measure now returns to the House of Representatives for another vote before heading to President Joe Biden’s desk for final approval.
The latest relief bill includes $1,400 stimulus checks, $300-a-week jobless benefits until Sept. 6, Child allowance up to $3,600, $350 billion for state and local aid, $34 billion for Affordable Care Act subsidies and $14 billion vaccine distribution.
The Senate’s changes to the House-passed version of the plan include reducing the jobless benefits to $300 (from $400 in the House bill) and extending them slightly to September 6. The Senate limited eligibility for the $1,400 checks by capping the payments for those who make $80,000, or $160,000 for couples. And the bill subsidizes 100 percent of COBRA insurance coverage for jobless Americans, up from 85 percent in the House version.
The so-called “vote-a-rama” on bill amendments lasted more than 25 hours. The bill provides direct payments of up to $1,400 for most Americans, extended emergency unemployment benefits and more. A minimum wage increase introduced by Senator Sanders failed, 58-42. House Majority Leader Hoyer says the House will take up the Senate version of the bill early next week.
“The Senate has never spent $2 trillion in a more haphazard way,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Of Democrats, he said, “Their top priority wasn’t pandemic relief. It was their Washington wish list.”
Bernie Sanders’ minimum wage amendment failed in the package. The Vermont senator’s proposed amendment to raise the hourly wage to $15 failed to acquire the 60 votes needed to pass it on Friday.
Clerks were required to read the entire 628-page relief bill Thursday and early Friday following an objection by Republican Senator Ron Johnson.
“The President has made it clear we will have enough vaccines for every American by the end of May, and I am confident the economic recovery will follow,” Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. said. “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 bill next year.”