Voting on amendments for President Joe Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion stimulus bill was blocked in the U.S. Senate for nearly six hours.
Senators had voted on a separate amendment related to minimum wage when that vote was held open as Democrats began negotiating behind closed doors on unemployment insurance issues and an upcoming amendment vote on it.
Democrats and Republicans are expected to come up with amendments regarding unemployment, which has become a contentious issue for moderates like Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.V., on both sides of the political aisle.
Democrats were sure they had reached an agreement between their party for an amendment to extend the weekly benefit of $ 300 until September. The original bill that passed the House last week increased the weekly amount to $ 400, but ended the benefit in August.
However, Senator Rob Portman, R-Ohio, is proposing a similar amendment for $ 300 that would run until July 18.
His proposal prompted Manchin, and possibly other moderates, to pause to support the Democratic amendment.
“Right now I feel bad for Joe Manchin,” said Senate Minority Whip John Thune, RS.D. “I hope the Geneva Convention applies to him.”
– Savannah Behrmann
Democrats reach agreement on universal income amendment
Senate Democrats have reached an agreement to keep federal unemployment benefits at $ 300 a week until September, against a proposed $ 400 increase in President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 stimulus package, according to a Democratic aide.
Senator Tom Carper, D-Del., Is expected to introduce a $ 1.9 trillion law amendment on Friday as the Democratic-controlled Senate considers changing the measure. His proposal will extend the weekly benefit by $ 300 until September. The original bill that passed the House last week increased the weekly amount to $ 400, but ended the benefit in August.
The additional unemployment benefit, currently at $ 300, has been a contentious point in the bill with Republicans voicing opposition to Democrats’ plans to expand and increase the payment amount. Congress faces a countdown to securing Biden’s stimulus package by mid-March, when Americans are on the verge of losing the current weekly surge in federal unemployment.
Progressive and moderate Democrats accepting the amendment come after moderate Republicans like Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, told reporters on Thursday he believed “there would be Republicans who agreed to lower the number “.
Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Who had pushed to extend the benefits until September, told reporters that “in this kind of environment, where literally every Democrat is the key, until now the reaction has been positive “.
The first $ 10,200 of unemployment benefits will be tax-free for the first time to avoid surprise bills for the unemployed at the end of the year. The agreement also extends the tax rules regarding limitations on excess business losses for an additional year, until 2026.
– Savannah Behrmann and Nicholas Wu
Senators enter final hours of debate on stimulus bill as Senate heads to final passage of bill
The Senate has entered its final hours of debate on President Joe Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion stimulus package despite Republican opposition to its final passage.
“We are going to take office and finish this bill, however long it takes,” promised Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, warning of a lengthy amendment process set to begin on Friday. midday.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called the bill an “ideological spending spree filled with costs unrelated to COVID.”
Senate progress on the bill slowed to a ramp on Thursday after Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., Forced a read of the entire 628-page legislation. The whole process lasted almost 11 hours and did not end until the wee hours of Friday morning.
“I can’t imagine this is anyone’s idea of having a good time,” Schumer said, thanking Senate staff, calling them “unsung heroes” of the evening.
“As for our friend from Wisconsin, I hope he enjoyed his Thursday night,” he said of Johnson.
The Senate was originally scheduled to begin 20 hours of debate on the bill on Friday, but at the end of Thursday’s session, Senator Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Proposed that the chamber reduce the debate time to three hours. With a few Republicans remaining in the room shortly after 2 a.m. ET on Friday, Van Hollen was successful.
Johnson said he was still in the House at the end of the session and was aware of the Democrats’ plan to change the length of debates.
“I stayed until the very end to make sure they weren’t trying to shoot us,” Johnson said.
After debate on the bill is concluded, senators are expected to enter a period in which any Member may introduce non-debatable amendments to the bill. Republicans expect a wave of votes during the period, dubbed “vote-a-rama,” on controversial topics such as abortion, reopening of schools and immigration.
– Nicolas Wu
GOP plans to try to reshape the legislation
A final Senate vote may not take place until late Friday or over the weekend on a COVID bailout that includes 1,400 payments, expands unemployment benefits and expands vaccine distribution as Republicans continue to throw obstacles to delay President Joe Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion US bailout.
Debate on the bill was scheduled to begin Thursday after Vice President Kamala Harris, in her role as Speaker of the Senate, broke a 50-50 tie to move the bill forward.
But Senator Ron Johnson, R-Wis., Who opposes the measure, has made the rare request that Senate clerks read aloud every word of the entire 628-page bill. It adds hours to the process.
The reading ended overnight. Senators will therefore go to three hours of debate, followed by a period during which senators can propose and vote on amendments to the bill. The Senate is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. on Friday.
Next, GOP senators plan to propose a wave of amendments – including funding cuts to Amtrak and shifting funds from family planning to youth suicide prevention – to change aspects of the bill.
It is not expected that a single Republican in the equally divided Senate will vote for the relief package, regardless of how it has been reshuffled. They oppose not only provisions for $ 350 billion for states and towns, expanded unemployment assistance and housing assistance, but also the size of the package.
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“Many of our amendments are unlikely to win Democrat support, so I think Republicans are very unlikely to support the final bill,” Senator Mitt Romney, R- told reporters on Thursday. Utah.
After the expected passage of the Senate, he will have to return to the House for his approval before going to Biden’s office for his signature.
Biden and Democratic leaders are pushing to pass the bill by March 14, when unemployment benefits approved under a previous relief bill will expire.
– Ledyard King