The Senate approved President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief plan on Saturday afternoon, after a roughly 24-hour marathon of debate pushed the $1.9 trillion dollar bill to the brink of a legislative win for the new president who vowed to prioritize pandemic aid.
The Senate passed the measure in a 50-49 vote over unanimous Republic opposition. It will now return to the House which is expected to pass the bill quickly, setting the stage for Biden to sign the package into law within days.
“This bill will deliver more help to more people than anything the federal government has done in decades,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said just before the bill’s approval.
The relief measure includes stimulus checks of $1,400 for taxpayers making $75,000 or less, $350 billion for state, local and tribal governments, $130 billion for schools, and financial support for programs like food assistance, rental relief and coronavirus vaccine distribution. The bill also includes relief aid for transit systems and small businesses.
An additional $300-per-week in unemployment payments until Labor Day, was also approved, cutting back the amount the House Democrats had approved for jobless aid earlier this month. Unemployment aid discussions extended into a lengthy nine-hour back as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), fought to beat back benefits.
“The Senate has never spent $2 trillion in a more haphazard way or through a less rigorous process,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said on Saturday, decrying the effort by Democrats to push relief without GOP support.
Democrats circumvented Republican opposition approving the bill through reconciliation, which only requires a majority.
A plan to boost the federal minimum wage to $15 hourly, was not included in the bill approved by the Senate in spite of an effort by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to restore the minimum wage hike put forward by the House that ultimately failed.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) had previously suggested that if minimum wage — which has not been boosted in years — did not survive in the relief bill, Democrats would find a way to make the wage increase another way.
Republicans forced nearly three dozen amendment votes, during a vote-a-rama which didn’t conclude until noon Saturday, as part of a desperate effort to delay the bill’s passage. One amendment, led by Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) that Democrats joined by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) blocked, sought to bar funds to schools that permit students to participate in athletics programs in accord with their gender identity.