- The Senate voted to advance the $1.9 trillion Biden relief bill along party lines on Thursday.
- The move kicks off a marathon debate which will likely push final Senate passage into the weekend.
- Republicans are moving to drag out the proceedings and offer hundreds of amendments to the bill.
- Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.
The Senate voted to advance the $1.9 trillion rescue package on Thursday along party lines, kicking off a lengthy debate that Republicans are moving to drag out. Passage of the bill may slip into the weekend.
Vice President Kamala Harris served as the tie-breaker in the 51-50 vote. The clock has started on 20 hours of debate, followed by a marathon amendment process called a vote-a-rama.
“No matter how long it takes, the Senate is going to stay in session to finish the bill this week,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Thursday.
But Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin set up a full read-out of the 628-page relief legislation shortly after, which could stretch on for up to ten hours. The task fell upon the chamber’s clerks, and senators wouldn’t be reading the bill.
“We need to keep this process going so we can highlight the abuse – obviously not Covid relief, obviously a boondoggle for Democrats,” Johnson said.
Democrats brushed this aside as a political stunt, and pointed to polls showing strong public support for the package.
“We Democrats want America to hear what’s in the plan,” Schumer said. “And if the senator from Wisconsin wants to read it, let everybody listen because it has overwhelming support.”
Legislation changed in Senate en route to party-line vote
Democrats spent much of the past day finalizing changes to the sprawling legislation. The president signed off on Wednesday to tightened eligibility for a round of $1,400 stimulus checks, placing lower income caps to prevent higher-earning Americans from receiving a third direct payment.
The moderate Democrats who led this effort also adjusted the aid formulas for $350 billion in state and local funding.
“I wanted to be sure localities had an ironclad share of the state and local funding,” Sen. Angus King of Maine told reporters on Thursday. “I wanted to be sure that the individual payments were targeted to those most in need.”
The relief package would provide $1,400 stimulus checks for the majority of taxpayers; $400 in federal unemployment benefits through August; $200 billion in funding for schools; $50 billion in virus testing and tracing; and a major revamp of the child tax credit.
Republicans are staunchly opposed to the bill, arguing it is an untargeted piece of legislation full of progressive priorities. Some were supportive of Johnson.
“I would expect a very long night into the next day and keep going on. There’s a lot to still cover,” Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma told Insider. “Obviously we need to read the bill first.”