In a 50-49 party-line vote, the Senate has approved the massive $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan Act.” Lawmakers worked through the night as Republicans and a few Democrats proposed amendments to the bill, all of which were rejected. With the Senate split 50-50 between the two parties, Democrats needed unanimity to pass the bill, and they received just that. One Republican, Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan, was absent during the vote due to a funeral. However, his absence would not have changed the outcome since Vice President Kamala Harris would have been tasked with casting the tie-breaking vote, handing the victory to Democrats regardless.
HR 1319 provides up to $1,400 direct payments to most Americans making less than $75,000 gross annual income in the form of stimulus checks. The bill extends emergency unemployment benefits through October 6, provides significant funding for vaccines, testing, and schools, among many other projects. One effort, a minimum wage increase proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders failed with a 58-42 vote.
“We tell the American people, help is on the way,” stated Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer adding, “Our job right now is to help our country get from this stormy present to that hopeful future.”
House Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) led the GOP’s opposition to the bill stating, “The Senate has never spent $2 trillion in a more haphazard way,” adding “[Democrats] top priority wasn’t pandemic relief. It was their Washington wish list.” Among the objections from Republicans was providing aid to schools that continue to remain closed to students, with no in-person schooling option, and an attempt to block transgender females from competing against biological females in school sports. Neither of these efforts passed in the Senate.
The House is expected to take up the Senate’s version of the bill early next week for reconciliation, where it is expected to pass, and could be on President Biden’s desk by the end of the week.