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Senate passes Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid relief plan after all-night votes

The Senate passed President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid relief plan on Saturday, after an all-night “vote-a-rama” and a 12-hour struggle to get one Democrat to support the party’s plan on a critical issue.

The vote was 50 to 49 on a party-line vote. The House will vote Tuesday on the bill to approve changes made in the Senate, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced, and then it will go to Biden to be signed into law.

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. But West Virginia Sen. 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.

But after a long negotiation, 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.

The Senate passed the bill after a vote-a-rama, a Senate tradition that the minority party uses to put members of the majority on the record on controversial issues in an effort to make changes to a bill that they oppose.

Senate Republicans introduced a number of amendments overnight that were narrowly defeated by the Democratic majority. Sen. 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. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina advocated for greater transparency for state nursing home investigations following the scandal in New York. And Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah proposed cutting billions of dollars from the bill to states that had better-than-expected revenues despite the pandemic, noting that California actually ran a big surplus last year.

But the vast majority of the GOP amendments failed, along with one by Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester to require Biden to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which the President blocked in January by executive order.

Only a few amendments were adopted, including Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden’s compromise with Manchin on unemployment benefits, New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan’s measure incentivizing schools to reopen in-person learning and Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran’s effort to strike a bipartisan deal protecting veterans’ educational benefits for legitimate institutions.

The first, extraordinarily long amendment vote — on a measure to raise the minimum wage to $15 a hour, introduced by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — was an early test of Democratic party unity.

Eight senators in the Democratic conference — Manchin, Tester, Hassan, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Angus King of Maine, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Chris Coons and Tom Carper of Delaware — opposed the minimum wage amendment, along with every Republican senator.

Democrats then rejected a Republican motion to adjourn late Friday, banking that Republicans will grow weary and won’t offer as many amendments.

Early Saturday, the Senate adopted Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman’s plan to extend weekly jobless benefits at $300 through July 18. Manchin also voted for the GOP proposal, but the Democrats’ alternative plan, which was adopted early Saturday morning, will superseded the Portman amendment.

The Senate’s effort to pass the $1.9 trillion legislation kicked into high gear Thursday when Democratic senators and Vice President Kamala Harris voted to open debate. Republicans then forced the 628-page bill to be read aloud.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck 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 a hour. But 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.

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments Saturday.

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Comments

38 Comments

  1. I was starting to worry that subway system in San Fransisco wasn’t going to get COVID relief funds. There are democrat cities and states to bail out. You can’t expect the federal mismanaged pensions to go without funding. And all you who expected that $2000 check from Biden the Magnificent. Shut up and take your $1400. You aren’t important. Enjoy paying it back when the bill comes due.

      1. Donny’s was better ‘cus i love him, we all love him – even though he always abuses our trust we love, love, love him – we’re into the abuse – don’t judge us

      2. Spelling doesn’t seem to be your strong point, but then again neither does reading.
        You tell us, non-d, how much in this 600+ pages monstrosity actually includes covid relief?
        The reason covid doesn’t even get included in the Bills name is because it has almost nothing to do with covid.
        Billions and billions in payoff for a stolen election, kickback from a “president” who is even now hiding under his desk. Afraid of addressing congress, the media, or even the American people.

        1. – yea – YOU are going to lecture me on spelling – ok then – as vacuous as all your other attacks – and look, you brought a word salad of prattle designed to take attention away from the Donny cult – still slinging the BS for your beloved – the heart wants what the heart wants – everyone’s entitled to their kink, i guess, but yours is way too creepy for me – smells like old chicken

          1. Biden is your guy, and in the WH…. why aren’t you focused on him instead of Trump?
            The law of averages says eventually Creepy Joe will crawl out from under his desk and try to defend his disastrous start.
            Any comment on the Bill, or this just a Tia stroke-fest?

          1. (Person with no idea what’s in the bill, deflecting).
            Back to the subject, what really shines in this bill for you? Over 600 pages of democrat graft and payoffs.
            The only good thing about it was on the Senate floor, when republicans demanded it be read in it’s entirety. It was worse than watching paint dry… and almost as bad as listening to Biden try to speak.

    1. – paying back? – you are either clowning, or purposefully spreading deceptions, again – the fiscal reality of the orange years really doesn’t exist in your tortured perspective, does it – cult on, brave little soldier – there is a gold toilet for you in heaven, some day

  2. Considering that over 70% of ALL Americans, Republicans and Democrats, approve of the stimulus bill, your opinion would seem to represent the minority. Biden is keeping the campaign promise he committed to. You just don’t recognize it for what it is after the ignorance and incompetence of the last 4 years – it’s called caring what your constituents sent you to do, what they need, and doing your duty for the them, not what greed, loyalty to one person and your cowardice require like the GOP continues to do.

    1. Have you read the Bill? If so, I have specific questions for you (and NO, you haven’t read it).
      What do you make of the billions still unspent from last years packages?

      1. Why read it when you could have listened to someone else read it? And, even if you have read it, there is little if anything in it about past spending, but I’ll clue you into a little secret – some of those billions that are unspent are for ongoing activities, or have been requested but because we had incompetents running the show under Bunker Baby the applications have not been approved or the money hasn’t been released.

        1. Are you saying the funds made available are not available?
          I’d gladly check out any links you can provide to show funds being withheld.
          And be careful with the “bunker baby” terms… Our Capital is now surrounded by miles of walls and razor wire (I thought walls didn’t work?), thousands of armed troops, and Creepy Joe has yet to address Congress or the People.
          Talk about a bunker baby!
          And good thing he’s not really a baby, ’cause the liberals would do some pretty barbaric things to him if he were.

          1. You’re really, really having a hard time comprehending, aren’t you. Try reading what I wrote, and don’t try to “read between the lines.” You’ll find that what I said is not what you think I said.

            As far as Bunker Baby is concerned, I’ll leave that for another day when the comments are related to the article.

    2. That’s because those 70% of Americans havn’t looked into the pork in this bill and actually believe it’s all for “Covid” relief and aid. I too would be all in for Covid relief. This bill has only 24% tied directly to “Covid” relief.

  3. How can we defeat the evil China Virus without a federal increase in the minimum wage?
    Small businesses closing down… that’s the unspoken dream of every voting democrat.

      1. As I’ve said, I intend to treat democrats in the same way they’ve treated republicans and conservatives over the past few years.
        To break it down for you:
        1) I don’t like racists (dems fought for slavery, segregation, and antisemitism).
        2) I don’t like socialists (the new democrats. Socialists have killed more people than Biden has killed jobs).
        3) I don’t like people who kill babies, a big part of the democrat platform.
        In a nutshell, I despise hypocrites like yourself, Tia. Even more so when they lack the spine (or likely the brains) to defend a single position with facts and stats.

    1. Now I’ll ask you, have you even read the bill? Is there anything in it that refers to increasing the minimum wage, or are you simply a few days late (slow synapses perhaps) in comprehending the news?

      1. I think the wage issue was shelved, thanks to sane democrats and republicans.
        As for reading the bill, no I haven’t. It has so little to do with covid relief, covid is not even in the title of the bill.
        This from Forbes, feel free to point out inaccuracies:
        https://www.forbes.com/sites/adamandrzejewski/2021/02/22/is-there-waste-or-bloated-spending-in-the-19-trillion-coronavirus-stimulus-bill/?sh=25fa9f1139db
        An older article, but it shows the liberal mindset.

        1. In your words, “I think the wage issue was shelved,” so why did you whine about something that didn’t happen? Stupidity perhaps, or just too lazy to keep up with what’s happening?

  4. The filibuster needs to be removed and the Dems need to just ignore the crybaby Repukes and run over them with legislation. The Repukes with turtle neck in charge did NOTHING for 8 years and very little in Dumps one-loser term except give wealthy huge tax breaks so step aside losers and lets get things done. The Pukes lost the Senate, House AND Presidency for a reason. The American people want it in record numbers and the 1% have enjoyed paying little or no taxes for much to long. Keep clutching your pearls like Linsey over “pork” spending because the Pukes have never done that, right? Gimme a break!

  5. Well,

    I guess my 401K is going to double come Monday morning when the Dow skyrockets!!!

    Thanks Joe……….

    Trying to decide between Zihuatanego MX, or Rio Hato Panama.

    Either way, retirement will be sweet. Love the Dems FREE MONEY!

      1. He did. 2K for people that need relief. Not Pelosi’s Pork Filled Projects.

        Those people that need the money, should have got it months ago, and there is no way you can deny that.

  6. So we learning that Billions of dollars from the last stimulus package has been illegally appropriated by thieves. Wonder how many Billions will be stolen from this package? Guessing it is no where close to the amount appropriated for things other then Covid relief.

  7. When you get your $1400 check from the government, remember every republican in the senate didn’t want you to have it. 70% of Americans approve of Biden’s stimulus package, and 78% in favor of the $1400 payment. When they say “my vote doesn’t matter”, remember today, because it wouldn’t have happened without you. Cheers!!

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