Senate Approves COVID Stimulus Package

The U.S. Capitol building (via senate.gov)

After a 27 hour marathon session, the U.S. Senate voted 50-49 on Saturday to approve President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief package.

The vote was split down party lines with all 50 Democrats voting for the bill and all Republicans (minus one absent GOP senator) voting against.

The $1.9 trillion price tag is less than the $2.2 trillion package passed with bipartisan support last March. This vote makes clear the Senate Republicans plan to obstruct the Biden administration.

The package heads back to the House due to some changes made to the legislation in the Senate most notably removing language that would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Last month, the Senate parliamentarian ruled the minimum wage language was not allowed since the Democrats were using a simple majority vote via budget reconciliation.

In its present form, the bill will:

• Provide $46 billion for COVID testing and tracing; $7.6 billion for pandemic response at community health centers; $5.2 billion to support research, development and manufacturing of vaccines, therapeutics and other medical products; and $7.7 billion to expand the public health care workforce.

• $1,400 stimulus payments for most Americans.

• $128.6 billion to help K-12 schools reopen.

• $350 billion in state and local aid.

• $25 billion in aid to restaurants and other food and drinking establishments.

• $19 billion in emergency rental assistance.

• $7.25 billion in funds for Paycheck Protection Program loans.

• Extends the enhanced federal unemployment insurance of $300 per week through September 6 and will make the first $10,200 of unemployment benefits received in 2020 non-taxable for households making less than $150,000.

President Biden issued a short statement about the passage of the American Rescue Plan (including throwing some shade in the direction of “the former guy”):

“When I was elected, I said we were going to get the government out of the business of battling on Twitter and back in the business of delivering for the American people, of making a difference in their lives, giving everyone a chance, a fighting chance of showing the American people that their government can work for them.

“I really want to thank the American people for making all this possible. Without the overwhelming bipartisan support of the American people, this would not have happened. Your elected officials heard you.”