WASHINGTON – The Democratic-controlled Senate Saturday passed President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package which would provide millions of Americans with $1,400 direct payments, billions of dollars for vaccine distribution, and funds to help reopen schools and colleges.
The chamber passed the bill following a session that began around 9 a.m. Friday and ended at approximately 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, aft a “vote-a-rama” of proposed changes from both parties. The final vote was 50-49 with all Republicans voting against the measure and all members of the Senate Democratic caucus supporting it. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, was not present for the vote.
The bill has been Biden’s chief legislative priority as he begins his presidency. He’s stressed the aid is sorely needed for Americans battling the economic impacts of a pandemic that’s killed more than 522,000 Americans and has pushed for Congress to pass the bill quickly.
In brief remarks Saturday morning, the president told reporters the package was “one more giant step forward” on delivering on his pledge to deliver aid to millions of Americans suffering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The bottom line is this: this plan puts us on a path to beating this virus,” Biden said.
Democrats did not get everything they wanted. The bill does not include a $15 federal hourly minimum wage that progressives had sought. And weekly unemployment benefits were pared back from $400 to $300. But it includes $350 billion for states and localities, provides economic assistance to renters and expands the child tax credit.