At 5:30 am EST on February 5, Madam Vice President Harris delivered the tie breaking vote to Senate regarding the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, moving government one step closer to passing the proposal without any Republican votes. They will be able to use a process called “reconciliation,” allowing bills concerning budget to avoid a filibuster and without it on the Democrats’ side, passing the budget would require at least 60 votes, 10 of which would have to come from Republicans.
President Biden has been adamant that the nearly $2 trillion is needed to help Americans recover from the economic devastation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In the early hours of this morning, the Senate took a critical step towards providing our health care heroes, unemployed workers, small businesses, schools, state and local governments, and American families who are trying to make ends meet, the big and bold assistance they’ve been asking for,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, said in a statement to USA Today.
The next step in passing the budget into law is again passing the same version agreed upon today. It is believed it will include another round of stimulus checks for $1400, following behind the second set for $600 issued in late December. Combined, these amounts total to the $2000 President Biden championed towards the end of his presidential campaign. The proposal also includes a $400 per week federal jobless benefit to run until September and “$350 billion for state, local and tribal relief,” as shared by CNBC. $130 billion will also be poured into the educational system, including colleges and universities.
One widely-discussed aspect of the package that Senate rejected was the increase of federal minimum wage to $15 per hour.
The $1.9 trillion is being countered with a smaller number from 10 Senate Republicans—$618 billion. They are recommending that stimulus payments only amount to $1000. Senator Mitch McConnell is one leader who has been vocal about his lack of support for the relief plan as it stands. “We’re going to put senators on the record,” he said, according to CBS News. “Expect votes to stop Washington from actively killing jobs during a recovery, like terminating the Keystone pipeline; that job-killing, one-size-fits-all minimum wage hike; and whether to bar tax hikes on small businesses for the duration of this emergency.”