Prompting cheers from Democrats in the chamber, the U.S. Senate on Saturday passed the $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package following over 24 hours of debate.
In a statement following the vote, Senate Budget Committee chair Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called the measure, the American Rescue Plan, "the most significant piece of legislation to benefit working families in the modern history of this country."
"This package, among many other things, increases direct payments by $1,400, extends unemployment benefits, reduces child poverty by half, ensures we are vaccinating as many people as possible, and puts us on a path to safely reopen schools," he said.
"The American people are hurting," Sanders continued, "and this comprehensive plan goes a long way to addressing the myriad crises that we face."
The bill's passage through budget reconciliation by a 50-49 vote along party lines followed an overnight session during which right-wing Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia forced his own party to lower a proposed boost to weekly unemployment benefits.
Preceding the vote on the sweeping package, Democrats rejected a slew of Republican amendments, including one to limit the package to $650 billion in aid and another to bar funding for schools that allow transgender athletes to participate in women's sports.
In addition to providing one-time $1,400 checks to most Americans, the bill includes an increase in the child tax credit, $350 billion in aid to state and local governments, funding to launch community vaccination centers, and an increase in funds for Medicaid home-based care programs.
It also includes an extension of weekly unemployment benefits. Manchin caused a more than 11-hour delay on a provision to extend unemployment benefits, ultimately leading to a reduced boost of $300 per week until September 6. It will include a 10,200 tax break for those earning less than $150,000.
Not included in the legislation: a provision to increase the federal minimum wage to $15. On Friday, all Republicans voted to shoot down that popular proposal, as did seven Democrats—Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), Tom Carper (Del.), Chris Coons (Del.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), and Maggie Hassan (N.H.). Angus King of Maine, an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats, also rejected the provision.
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Their effort to kill the wage boost, as well as the effort to reduce UI weekly benefits, drew the ire of Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), who said, "I'm frankly disgusted with some of my colleagues and question whether I can support this bill."
"What is the Party of the People doing when instead of putting our full effort into helping struggling working families, we're arguing over ways to toss them aside? What are we here for if not to help the American People?" she added.
Other provisions in the bill were touted by Democratic senators following Saturday's vote:
I’m especially proud that I was able to work with President Biden and my colleagues to add $17 billion to expand access to high-speed internet, which is a necessity, not a luxury, during COVID-19. This will be a significant boost to our economy as we work to rebuild and recover.— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) March 6, 2021
I’m happy that my bill with @SenatorMenendez to make any student loan forgiveness tax-free was included in the COVID relief bill. This clears the way for President Biden to #CancelStudentDebt without burdening student borrowers with thousands of dollars in unexpected taxes.— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) March 6, 2021
We’ve also secured state & local funding needed to support our first responders, educators & essential workers; more support for small businesses, including dedicated funding to go towards small & minority-owned small businesses; and debt forgiveness for farmers of color.— Sen. Cory Booker (@SenBooker) March 6, 2021
The American Rescue Plan will help make sure COVID-19 tests are fast, free, accurate, and everywhere, and will increase tracing and sequencing—which is essential to limiting new strains and ending this pandemic.— Senator Patty Murray (@PattyMurray) March 6, 2021
The bill now heads back to the Democrat-controlled House, where, according to a a statement Saturday from House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, it will face a vote on Tuesday.
This is an updated version of an earlier article.