WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate passed a resolution early Friday morning approving a budget for President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill, passing the legislation on a 51-50 party line vote with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tiebreaking vote at approximately 5:30 a.m. after a long night of negotiations with Republicans, reports say.
The House has passed an initial budget measure on Wednesday, but the Senate added amendments to the version of the bill they approved this morning, forcing the House to have to vote on it once again to approve the changes, which will likely happen Friday. Once this is accomplished, work can begin on drawing up the final version of the relief package, which lawmakers are aiming at completing before federally-backed unemployment benefits run out in March.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer applauded members of the Democratic party for the unity they displayed, which allowed them to utilize the slim margin they hold in the Senate to pass the historic spending plan designed to further assist a nation beleaguered financially by the ongoing pandemic.
“I am so thankful that our caucus stayed together in unity,” Schumer said. “We had no choice given the problems facing America and the desire to move forward. And we have moved forward.”
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Schumer insisted that the passing of the bill represented “bipartisan activity” since the Senate added a number of amendments to the relief plan – including excluding illegal immigrants from receiving stimulus checks – that were drawn up by members of both parties; despite that, however, no Republicans voted in favor of passing the budget legislation, with many stating that Biden’s plan is too expensive.
Nonetheless, Democrats have now set up a way to ultimately pass the COVID relief bill through what is called “budget reconciliation,” which allows spending legislation to pass with only a simple majority, bypassing the typical 60-vote threshold. However, President Biden has said that he would like to get bipartisan support for the final bill.
Included in the Democrats’ version of the COVID relief bill are $1,400 direct payments, a $400 a week boost in federal unemployment aid through September, and billions in aid for state and local governments, vaccination programs, schools, and rent and utility assistance.