The Senate approved President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill Saturday in a 50-49 party-line vote.
The relief package, which includes $1,400 direct payments for millions of Americans and billions put toward distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines, was initially OK’d by the House of Representatives on Feb. 27. Now that the bill, known as the American Rescue Plan, has been passed by the Senate, it will return to the House for final congressional approval before it can be sent to President Biden to sign into law.
“We tell the American people, help is on the way,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Saturday, according to the Associated Press, adding: “Our job right now is to help our country get from this stormy present to that hopeful future.”
The Senate’s debate preceding the bill’s approval lasted more than 24 hours, ending with all Republican senators voting against the package and all of the Democrats voting for it, with Sen. Dan Sullivan, a Republican from Alaska, not present.
Though the bill was passed by the Senate, not every part of it made the final cut for approval, including the $15 federal hourly minimum wage that Democrats had fought for. The relief package’s weekly unemployment benefits amount was also reduced from $400 to $300 during the hours of debate over the finer points of the $1.9 trillion package.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said after the bill was approved that “the Senate has never spent $2 trillion in a more haphazard way or through a less rigorous process,” according to USA Today.
This bill has been a main priority for Biden since he was sworn into office in January amid a pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 522,000 Americans.
“This bill that we are completing now is the most significant piece of legislation to benefit working people in the modern history of this country,” Sen. Bernie Sanders said ahead of the Senate passing the American Rescue Plan, according to USA Today. “The people are hurting and today, we respond.”