Politics

Senate approves funds decision as Democrats rush to cross Covid Reduction Act

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer speaks to reporters at the US Capitol in Washington, DC.

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

The Senate passed a budget resolution early Friday that passed a $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill after a marathon of votes on dozen of amendments.

Democrats passed it 51-50 in the evenly split Senate when Vice President Kamala Harris cast her first casting vote. The vote on the party line after around 15 hours of examining politically sensitive amendments underscores the divide in Congress over the structure of the next aid package.

The House passed a budget measure on Wednesday. The chamber has to vote again because the Senate has passed a separate version.

“I am so grateful that our caucus stayed together in unity,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer after the vote. “We had no choice given the problems America is facing and the desire to move forward. And we have moved forward.”

He claimed “this was a bipartisan activity” as the chamber had accepted several amendments from senators from both parties.

By approving a resolution, the Democrats can advance the budgetary vote process that will allow the party to pass a bailout package without Republican votes. While President Joe Biden said he hoped to win Republican support for the relief plan, Democrats have begun creating the framework to get the proposal passed as soon as possible without GOP support.

Without reconciliation, the Democrats would have to win over 10 Republicans in a 50:50 split in the Senate.

The budget resolution instructs the committees to pass legislation mirroring Biden’s Covid bailout package while falling below the $ 1.9 trillion target. Among other things, Democrats want to adopt:

$ 1,400 in direct paymentsA $ 400 per week unemployment benefits through September $ 350 billion for state, local, and tribal government aidA $ 20 billion national Covid immunization program $ 50 billion for virus testing $ 170 billion for K-12 schools and higher education institutionsA $ 30 billion Rental and pension assistance funds

Several amendments were adopted during the vote, although many were vague and it was not clear how they would affect the final legislation. They included a measure to prevent high-income people from receiving stimulus checks, one to set up a restaurant grant program, and one to ban tax increases for small businesses during the pandemic.

An additional amendment that was passed aims to prohibit undocumented immigrants from receiving direct payments.

A separate measure that failed and targeted New York without naming it would have limited funding to states under investigation for inadequate reporting of coronavirus deaths in nursing homes.

Democrats have said they couldn’t afford to wait for law to pass if talks with Republicans over a bipartisan plan fail to bring about a breakthrough. You said it would take nearly $ 2 trillion in spending to both contain the pandemic and prevent future economic problems.

Republicans offered Biden a $ 618 billion counter-proposal, arguing that Congress could cap additional spending after passing a $ 900 billion relief bill in December. A group of GOP lawmakers who met with Biden on Monday sent him a letter Thursday questioning the amount of school funding in his plan and commending him for considering raising the income cap for stimulus Lower checks.

Democrats hope to have a bailout package through March 14 when a $ 300-a-week unemployment allowance approved in December expires.

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