LIVE: Senate Enters Final Stages of Debating Biden’s $1.9 Trillion Covid Stimulus

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  • Bloomberg Quicktake: Now published this video item, entitled “LIVE: Senate Enters Final Stages of Debating Biden’s $1.9 Trillion Covid Stimulus” – below is their description.

    (Mar. 4) The U.S. Senate voted to take up a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill backed by President Joe Biden, setting off a lengthy and partisan debate expected to end this weekend with approval of the nation’s sixth stimulus since the pandemic-triggered lock downs that began a year ago.

    The 51-50 vote Thursday, with Vice President Kamala Harris providing the tie-breaker, reflected the solid opposition of Senate Republicans, who say the drive by Democrats to pass it on their own has resulted in a far-too-costly measure that will further boost U.S. debt and could spark inflation.

    The vote has the Senate considering a bill passed in the House a week ago, but the chamber will later vote on a package of changes offered by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer that are designed to shore up support among Democrats. That includes tighter eligibility for $1,400 stimulus checks and subsidies for health insurance premiums of laid-off workers through September.

    A host of other changes could come later in a debate that Republicans are threatening to stretch out for several days and that will end in a grueling “vote-a-rama,” when senators can offer scores of amendments with rapid-fire debate and votes. In a chamber divided 50-50 between the two parties, with Harris able to break any ties, Democrats will be challenged to stay unified over votes that could politically risky or that could fundamentally alter the legislation.

    As an added hurdle, GOP Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin is demanding an entire reading of the 700-page bill — something that could take 10 hours. After that, the Senate will have as many as 20 hours of debate on the relief package. Then comes the vote-a-rama, which has no set end point under Senate rules. Democratic leaders have the ability to conclude at some point by declaring that Republicans are engaging in “dilatory” tactics.

    “No matter how long it takes, the Senate is going to stay in session to finish the bill this week,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “The American people deserve nothing less.”

    The Senate is plowing ahead despite warnings from federal law enforcement agencies that a militia group may be plotting to attack the Capitol on Thursday, about two months after a Jan. 6 siege of the building by extremist supporters of then-President Donald Trump that led to five deaths.

    The House, which passed its own version of the relief bill on a 219-212 tally on Feb. 27, canceled Thursday’s session and scaled back other events at least in part because of the threat. Democrats are racing the clock to get the stimulus legislation to Biden’s desk by March 14, when existing supplemental unemployment aid expires.

    Both the House-passed bill and the version Schumer proposes would provide $1,400 stimulus checks, enhanced jobless benefits and funding for vaccines and testing. A boost in the nation’s minimum wage to $15 an hour that is in the House bill was removed in the Senate because it didn’t comply with Senate rules that Democrats are using to pass their bill with a simple majority of votes.

    As part of the effort to keep Democrats together, the president agreed Tuesday to a lower the income threshold for phasing-out stimulus payments in the aid bill, according to a Democratic aide.

    Democratic Senators, including Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, had advocated tighter eligibility to reduce funds being transferred to those who don’t need it. Their votes will be critical in passing the legislation.

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