The Senate on Saturday approved President Joe Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion COVID-19 aid plan in a non-partisan vote after an all-night session in which Democrats fought among themselves for unemployment benefits and the Republican minority failed to push through some three dozen amendments. .
The final bill includes $ 400 billion in one-time payments of $ 1,400 to most Americans, $ 300 a week in increased unemployment benefits for the 9.5 million people released from work in the crisis and $ 350 billion in support of state and local governments that have seen the pandemic blow a hole in their budgets.
The Senate voted 50-49, without Republicans voting in favor of what would be one of the largest stimulus packages in US history.
Several Republicans left the House immediately after the vote, while Senator Bernie Sanders pushed Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
The fight is not over because the bill must return to the House of Representatives, which approved a slightly different version a week earlier.
BREAKING: Senate Dems passes Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion stimulus
– $ 1400 checks per adult and child– Unemployment @ $ 300 through Sept. 6– $ 350 billion for cities, states, tribes – $ 3K / year per child 6-17, $ 3600 children 0-6– $ 170B for schools – $ 100 billion for public health
– Jeff Stein (@JStein_WaPo) March 6, 2021
The Democratic Party’s deviation from unemployment benefits and the entire Republican effort to change a bill that the polls show is popular with voters illustrated the difficulty Biden will face in pursuing other policies through a congress that Democrats control with the narrowest majorities. The bill is a priority for Biden as the country fights a pandemic that has killed more than 520,000 Americans.
The House set a record in its longest single vote in the modern era – 11 hours and 50 minutes – when Democrats negotiated a compromise on unemployment benefits to satisfy centrists like Senator Joe Manchin, who often walks a delicate line as a Democrat representing a state. West Virginia, which overwhelmingly supported former Republican President Donald Trump in the November election.
The increased unemployment benefits, which are to be paid in addition to state unemployment benefits, turned out to be the most controversial part of the bill. The House bill had set the extra benefit at $ 400 a week, but Senate Democrats eventually agreed to cut it to $ 300.
The housing bill also included a measure to more than double the minimum wage to $ 15 per hour, which the Senate also rejected.
Moderate Democrats feared that the higher unemployment benefits and the increase in the minimum wage would overheat the economy and harm rural businesses.
Senate Democrats used a process called reconciliation to implement the measure by a simple majority rather than the 60 out of 100 votes normally required by House rules.
It was unclear whether the Democrats will try to use this maneuver on other policy goals such as legislation on climate change and immigration.
A Republican, Daniel Sullivan of Alaska, left Washington on Friday night for a family funeral, which meant Democrats did not need Vice President Kamala Harris’ final jump in the regular 50-50 House.
Republicans have largely supported previous stimulus packages to fight the virus and revive the economy. But with Democrats in charge of the White House and both houses of Congress, they criticized this bill as too expensive.
The country has not yet replaced 9.5 million lost jobs since last year and the White House says it could take years to do so.
Washington received unexpectedly good news on Friday after data showed that US employment increased in February and provided 379,000 jobs, significantly higher than many economists had expected.