Light shines on the U.S. Capitol dome Friday, Dec. 13, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
By: Sam Cohen
WASHINGTON — Senators have passed the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, after debate on amendments stretched for 24 hours overnight and into Saturday morning.
The massive spending bill, called the American Rescue Plan, which includes emergency enhanced jobless benefits, another round of stimulus checks, and billions in benefits to schools, cities and small businesses, passed 50-to-49. Republican Senator Dan Sullivan did not attend the vote because of a family funeral in Alaska.
The marathon of roll call votes overnight on mostly GOP amendments didn’t substantially change the overall package.
Friday evening, the process seemed to stall after disagreement over how long emergency jobless benefits should last.
Democratic Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia said he would not agree to extending the enhanced jobless benefits through October and was considering a Republican amendment. The decision forced Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to hold open a vote for 10 hours, a Senate record for longest amendment vote, to give leaders time to work out a deal.
The deal came late Friday night, when Manchin and other leaders agreed to extend emergency jobless benefits at $300 a week until early September. The current enhancement of jobless benefits was set to expire on March 14.
The so-called vote-o-rama then continued, with proposed amendments and roll call votes through the night and into Saturday morning.
Now that the Senate has approved it, the bill must return to the House for final approval of the changes before heading to President Joe Biden for his signature.
House Majority Leader, Steny Hoyer, released a statement saying representatives will vote on the Senate version of the American Rescue Plan on Tuesday.
In addition to extending the enhanced unemployment insurance benefits, the bill includes a new round of stimulus checks – up to $1,400 for some individuals – $350 billion for cities and states, $130 billion for schools and billions more for a national vaccine program, food assistance and rent relief.