The Senate narrowly approved the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package on March 6 on a party-line vote.
After more than 24 hours of debate, the evenly divided Senate voted 50–49 to approve the measure. Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan was absent because he was in Alaska for a family funeral.
The bill, also known as the American Rescue Plan or H.R. 1319, was passed by the House on Feb. 27 by a vote of 219–212, with all Republicans and two Democrats voting against it.
The Senate was able to pass the bill after several amendments. The bill will be returned to the House for reconciliation, which is expected to happen early this week.
The amendments adopted by the Senate included removing the $15 minimum wage proposal, reducing the unemployment bonus on top of the usual unemployment benefit to $300 per week from $400, while extending the payment of the extra unemployment benefit to Sept. 6.
Republicans in the House and Senate refused to support the stimulus package for a variety of reasons. They said the bill isn’t targeted—with only 9 percent spending directly related to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic—included a Democratic wish list of items that are unrelated to the public health crisis, and was advanced with little input from the Republican side.
“Senate Democrats just managed to pass their bloated spending bill disguised as ‘COVID relief.’ This is the first COVID bill to be entirely partisan because it isn’t designed to help end the pandemic—it’s a blatant attempt from Dems to jam through a partisan wish list,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the Senate Republican whip, wrote in a Twitter post after the passage of the relief bill.
“This boondoggle of a bill is a case study in the pitfalls of pure partisanship. Democrats set the record for the longest recorded vote in modern history because it wasn’t ready for primetime.”
The White House appears to be satisfied with the stimulus bill as amended.
White House spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters on March 5, before the passage of the bill, that the relief bill remains “incredibly progressive,” despite Senate compromises.
Tom Ozimek and Ivan Pentchoukov contributed to the report.