WASHINGTON — The Senate early Friday morning wrapped up a 15-hour “vote-a-rama” by approving a budget resolution to speed passage of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package without Republican support.
What You Need To Know
- The Senate early Friday morning approved a budget resolution to speed passage of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package without Republican support
- The measure passed 51-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting her first tiebreaking vote after a marathon session featured votes on hundreds of amendments
- The budget resolution is not the final COVID-19 relief bill, and the amendments that were passed are not binding
- An amendment seeking to remove a measure that would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour was approved 99-1
The measure passed 51-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting her first tiebreaking vote around 5:30 a.m.
The House passed the resolution later Friday. The Democratic-led chamber had already approved it earlier in the week, but because it was amended it required another vote, which was opposed by every House Republican.
The marathon session featured votes on hundreds of amendments. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) admitted before the vote that the amendments were aimed at forcing Democrats to take positions on specific issues.
The amendments required majority approval, meaning a 50-50 party-line vote failed. Many resolutions were not successful, but some Republican-led efforts found bipartisan support and were adopted.
The budget resolution, however, is not the final COVID-19 relief bill, and the amendments that were passed are not binding. It provides reconciliation instructions for multiple congressional committees to draft the legislation, which, as a result of Friday’s vote, can be passed using the “budget reconciliation” process with a simple majority vote, rather than needing to clear the 60-vote filibuster hurdle in the Senate.
Arguably the most significant amendment to pass was one proposed by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) seeking to remove a measure that would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, citing the coronavirus pandemic as a concern. The amendment was approved 99-1.
“A $15 federal minimum wage would be devastating for our hardest-hit small businesses at a time they can least afford it,” Ernst said on the Senate floor. “We should not have a one-size-fits-all policy set by Washington politicians.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) argued his proposal would increase the minimum wage to $15 gradually over five years, not all at once. Sanders and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) indicated they will continue to fight for the wage hike, even if outside the stimulus measure.
Another amendment, by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Susan Collins (R-ME), which also passed 99-1, called for restricting $1,400 direct payments from going to high earners, although it did not specify an income level for the cutoff point.
“Do we want stimulus checks to go to households with family incomes of $300,000?” Collins asked.
Among the other measures that passed were one blocking tax increases on small businesses, one establishing a fund to provide grants to struggling restaurants and bars, and another to prevent stimulus money from going to undocument immigrants.
Republican proposals that failed included reducing funding to certain states such as New York, which is under investigation over COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes; prohibiting funding for schools that do not reopen for in-person classes after teachers are vaccinated; blocking funding from “sanctuary cities” that do not cooperate with federal law enforcement on immigration issues; and opposing expansion of the Supreme Court.
Note: This article was updated to include House approving the resolution.