Senate passes $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, with VP Harris casting first tie-breaking vote

After a 15-hour session, the Senate passed a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill on March 6th. The bill passed 51-50, with vice president Kamala Harris casting her first tie-breaking vote.

If approved by the house, this relief bill will be the sixth since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis and lockdowns in March of last year. The American Rescue Plan Act is developing just a week before federal unemployment benefits are set to run out on March 14. Included in the bill are $1400 stimulus checks, amplified $300 a week federal unemployment benefits to be supplied through September, a $3000 per-child allowance, and billions allocated to reopening schools, support small businesses, and expand testing and vaccination efforts. Aid is directed at state, local, and tribal governments.

Initially, the bill also included a federal minimum wage increase to $15 per hour, however it was eliminated for not being in tune with budget demands and according to some senators, not being appropriate for the relief bill. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said, “When Democrats assumed the majority in this chamber, we promised to pass legislation to rescue our people from the depths of the pandemic and bring our economy and our country roaring back.” He continued, “The American Rescue Plan will go down as one of the most sweeping federal recovery efforts in history. It’s never easy to pass legislation as momentous as this, but it will all and soon be worth it.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., argued Democrats wanted to push through “unrelated policy changes that they couldn’t pass honestly.” And, “What this proves is there are benefits to bipartisanship when you’re dealing with an issue of this magnitude. Exactly one year ago, instead of partisan scrambling, we were humming with bipartisan work, working on it together.” Even after tweaks, the relief bill remains at a total cost of $1.9 trillion, making support for the bill strictly divided between party lines.

Since the Trump Administration, the Republican party’s efforts to save the economy have been centered around reopening the country, allowing businesses to fully operate, and making the government to step back. However, the Democrat party supports a larger and powerful hand of government. One that will directly provide aid to Americans as their plan for reopening the country is not immediate. The house is expected to pass the relief package this week, and President Biden is expected to sign the bill before unemployment programs expire on Sunday. 




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