Senate passes $1.9 trillion COVID relief package

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Axios
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The Senate voted 50-49 on Saturday to approve President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief package.

Why it matters: COVID relief has been a central promise for Biden, and passing the sweeping package has been a major priority for the administration and congressional Democrats.

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What's next: The House is expected to take up the Senate version of the bill next week before it is sent to Biden for his signature.

Context: The bill passed more than 24 hours after the Senate opened debate. Republicans forced dozens of votes overnight into Saturday on amendments in an effort to stall the process.

  • Democrats approved the package through the budget reconciliation process, meaning it did not require any Republican support to pass.

  • However, the reconciliation process also prevented Democrats from including a provision to increase the minimum wage to $15/hour in the legislation. The Senate parliamentarian ruled last month that the wage increase does not directly affect the federal government’s finances.

What they're saying: "I promised the American people that help is on the way. Today, I can say we've taken one more giant step forward in delivering on that promise," Biden said from the White House Saturday.

  • "This plan puts on a path to defeating this virus," the president said, adding that stimulus checks will likely begin going out later this month.

  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said just before final passage that the "bill will deliver more help to more people than anything the federal government has done in decades."

  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called the bill "the most progressive" piece of legislation "in a generation," according to NBC News.

Highlights from the bill:

  • Expanded federal funding for COVID programs, including $46 billion for testing and tracing; $7.6 billion for pandemic response at community health centers; $5.2 billion to support research, development and manufacturing of vaccines, therapeutics and other medical products; and $7.7 billion to expand the public health care workforce.

  • $1,400 stimulus payments for most Americans.

  • $128.6 billion to help K-12 schools reopen.

  • $350 billion in state and local aid.

  • $25 billion in aid to restaurants and other food and drinking establishments.

  • $19 billion in emergency rental assistance.

  • $7.25 billion in funds for Paycheck Protection Program loans.

  • The bill also extending the enhanced unemployment insurance of $300 per week through Sept. 6.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with Biden's comments and clarify the Senate version of the bill extends enhanced unemployment insurance through Sept. 6.

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