The Senate passed a budget resolution early Friday that passed a $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill after a marathon of votes on dozen of amendments.
Democrats passed it 51-50 in the evenly split Senate when Vice President Kamala Harris cast her first casting vote. The vote on the party line after around 15 hours of examining politically sensitive amendments underscores the divide in Congress over the structure of the next aid package.
Vice President Kamala Harris attends a swearing-in ceremony with Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. And Alex Padilla, D-Calif. In the Old Senate Chamber in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, USA, on Feb. 4 2021.
Greg Nash | Reuters
The House passed a budget measure on Wednesday. The chamber has to vote again because the Senate has passed a separate version.
“I am so grateful that our caucus stayed together in unity,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer after the vote. “We had no choice given the problems America is facing and the desire to move forward. And we have moved forward.”
He claimed “this was a bipartisan activity” as the chamber had accepted several amendments from senators from both parties.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer speaks to reporters at the US Capitol in Washington, DC.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters
By approving a resolution, the Democrats can advance the budgetary vote process that will allow the party to pass a bailout package without Republican votes. While President Joe Biden said he hoped to win Republican support for the relief plan, Democrats have begun creating the framework to get the proposal passed as soon as possible without GOP support.
Without reconciliation, the Democrats would have to win over 10 Republicans in a 50:50 split in the Senate.
The budget resolution instructs the committees to pass legislation mirroring Biden’s Covid bailout package while falling below the $ 1.9 trillion target. Among other things, Democrats want to adopt:
- $ 1,400 direct payments
- Unemployment benefit of $ 400 per week through September
- $ 350 billion for state, local, and tribal government
- A national Covid vaccination program worth $ 20 billion
- $ 50 billion for virus testing
- $ 170 billion for K-12 schools and higher education institutions
- A $ 30 billion rental and utility fund
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Chair of the House Democratic Committee, who will draft the legislation, met with Biden Friday morning. In a message to colleagues on Friday, the California Democrat wrote that her party hoped “to finish our work before the end of February”.
Several amendments were adopted during the vote, although many were vague and it was not clear how they would affect the final legislation. They included a measure to prevent high-income people from receiving stimulus checks, one to set up a restaurant grant program, and one to ban tax increases for small businesses during the pandemic.
An additional amendment that was passed aims to prohibit undocumented immigrants from receiving direct payments.
A separate measure that failed and targeted New York without naming it would have limited funding to states under investigation for inadequate reporting of coronavirus deaths in nursing homes.
Democrats have said they couldn’t afford to wait for law to pass if talks with Republicans over a bipartisan plan fail to bring about a breakthrough. You said it would take nearly $ 2 trillion in spending to both contain the pandemic and prevent future economic problems.
Republicans offered Biden a $ 618 billion counter-proposal, arguing that Congress could cap additional spending after passing a $ 900 billion relief bill in December. A group of GOP lawmakers who met with Biden on Monday sent him a letter Thursday questioning the amount of school funding in his plan and commending him for considering raising the income cap for stimulus Lower checks.
In the meantime, some lawmakers have urged the White House to break its plan down into smaller pieces to ensure bipartisan support for parts of it. The House Problem Solvers Caucus, made up of 56 members from both parties, called on Friday for a swift vote on a $ 160 billion bill related to vaccine distribution.
The Biden government has announced that it will not split the aid laws.
Democrats hope to have a bailout package through March 14 when a $ 300-a-week unemployment allowance approved in December expires.
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