Senate Passes $1.9 Trillion ‘Covid Relief’ Bill After Vote-A-Rama

The United States Senate voted on Saturday morning to pass the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, which has the support of President Biden, but the effort was not without its setbacks.

Several of the senatorial members who were in the chamber on Saturday morning were there from the night before as a pair of delays set the ultimate passage of the bill back more than 25 hours.

When lawmakers first got together on Thursday morning, little did they know a formalized reading of the bill—which lasted 11 hours—and internal disputes within the Democratic Party—which lasted another 10 hours—would push the bill back for more than a day.

Republican Senator Ron Johnson called for the reading of the bill and Democrats struggled to rally all of their members behind the bill. One senator, in this case, Democrat Joe Manchin, could derail the effort completely.

The pressure for Democrats to get this vote correct was immense. Not only was the coronavirus relief bill President Biden’s first major legislative effort since entering the White House, but it was also the first stimulus bill to make its way through all three of the newly-Democratic controlled chambers of the lawmaking process.

After all the deliberations (or lack thereof, according to some Republicans), NBC News reports the bill cleared the chamber on party lines:

The far-reaching legislation includes $1,400 stimulus checks, $300-per-week jobless benefits through the summer, a child allowance of up to $3,600 for one year, $350 billion for state aid, $34 billion to expand Affordable Care Act subsidies and $14 billion for vaccine distribution.

The final vote was 50-49 along party lines, with every Republican voting “no.” It came after Democrats voted down a swath of Republican amendments on repeated votes of 50-49 to avoid disrupting the delicate agreement between progressive and moderate senators.

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Just ahead of the vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer admitted the bill was ambitious and praised his party members for their compliance.

“We’re not going to make the same mistake we made after the last economic downtown, when Congress did too little to help the nation rebound, locking us into a long, slow, painful recovery,” Schumer said before the vote, per the report. “We are not going to be timid in the face of big challenges.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell struck a different tone. Not only did he criticize his Democratic colleagues for forcing through a partisan vote, but he said it did little to help the American people.

McConnell argued, nonetheless, that the American economy would “come roaring back and mostly not because of this bill — in fact, in some ways in spite of this bill.”

NBC has more on the bill’s length passage:

The absence of Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, due to a family emergency prevented Vice President Kamala Harris from having to break a tie in the 50-50 chamber, which she had to do to allow the Senate to begin debate on the bill.

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 Sept. 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 Senate also approved some modest and noncontroversial amendments offered by both parties before passing the final version.

The Senate appeared ready to begin the lengthy process, known as a “vote-a-rama,” on Friday morning. But then Democratic leadership hit pause to sort out a last-minute dispute over jobless benefits and keep Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia on board after he appeared ready to side with Republicans and change that provision, a move that would have alienated progressives.


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