Senate narrowly votes to advance Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 aid package

Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer is seen at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on January 26. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI
Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer is seen at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on January 26. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 3 (UPI) -- Senate Democrats are moving President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief proposal to the next stage after agreeing to a process that doesn't require any support from Republicans, for now.

Democrats in the upper chamber voted 50-49 Tuesday, strictly along party lines, to allow an expedited passage process to begin in the House and Senate.


Due to the Democrats' new majority in the chamber, the type of legislation passed Tuesday can advance without facing a filibuster.

Typically, 60 votes are required to pass legislation in the Senate. Democrats, though, are using an expedited method called budget reconciliation that requires only a simple majority for bills to advance.

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Next, there will be many hours of debate on the proposal that's followed by a floor vote. Those steps are expected to last through this week.


Biden unveiled the proposal last month, which calls for vast amounts of coronavirus-related aid a third round of direct stimulus payments of $1,400 for most Americans.

"We cannot afford to dither, delay or dilute," Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor Tuesday. "We need a big, bold package along the lines of what President Biden has proposed, the American Relief Plan.

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"We hope that our Republican colleagues will join us in offering amendments."

Any lawmaker during the process can add an amendment to the bill, as long as it's budgetary in nature.

"I am glad that Senate Democrats took a major first step today in bringing desperately-needed big, bold health and economic relief to the American people. Our work continues," Schumer added later in a statement.

Later on Wednesday, the House approved a budget resolution in a 218-212 vote directing a dozen committees to begin drafting pieces of the legislation, kicking off the reconciliation process.

House Budget Chair John Yarmuth said that "nothing in this resolution should come as a surprise" adding that Congress "cannot afford to slow down."

The ranking Republican on the budget committee, Rep. Jason Smith of Missouri, accused Democrats of "setting up a partisan process to have the vice president cast the decisive vote in the Senate on an array of radical policies."


The Senate budget committee must also sign off on the legislation, certifying that it qualifies as a budget reconciliation matter.

"We welcome your ideas, your input, your revisions," Schumer, who is now the majority leader in the Senate, said in an effort to reach out to Republicans. "We welcome cooperation.

"There is nothing about the process of a budget resolution or reconciliation, for that matter, that forecloses the possibility of bipartisanship."

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, however, has called the present reconciliation process a "partisan path" and warned Democrats against subverting the filibuster, which is the normal process by which legislation is passed in the Senate.

Biden met with a group of 10 senators on Monday to discuss their compromise proposal, which includes spending $618 billion on new coronavirus relief.

The compromise, however, offers no aid to state and local governments and cuts the direct stimulus payments to $1,000. That proposal also would limit the payments only to Americans earning up to $50,000 per year.

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