UPDATED 5:35 PM PT – Saturday, March 6, 2021
Top Senate Democrats steered the upper chamber to the left as they used their slim majority to pass Joe Biden’s massive coronavirus relief bill. On Saturday, the Senate voted 50-to-49 to pass the nearly $2 trillion package. Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) missed the vote for personal reasons.
This came after senators toughed it out in Washington D.C. by hashing out differences in more than 24 hours of deliberations, delays and backdoor deals.
“It’s been a long day, a long night, a long year, but a new day has come and we tell the American people: Help is on the way,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) stated. “When Democrats assumed the majority in this chamber, we promised to pass legislation to rescue our people from the depths of the pandemic and bring our economy and our country roaring back. In a few moments, we are going to deliver on that promise.”
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) almost knocked Democrats’ momentum off its tracks over issues he had with extending unemployment benefits. Manchin even signaled support for Sen. Rob Portman’s (R-Ohio) proposal to extend benefits through mid-July instead of mid-September. However, Joe Biden allegedly used the power of the high office to twist Manchin’s arm and keep him in-line with the Democrat Party.
“Voters gave Senate Democrats the slimmest possible majority,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) stated. “Voters picked a president who promised unity and bipartisanship. Democrats’ response is to ram through what they call ‘the most progressive domestic legislation in a generation’ on a razor-thin majority.”
Republicans in the upper chamber decried Democrats’ efforts to push through what some have branded a “liberal wish list.” Many in the GOP criticized proposals that aim to bail out struggling blue states and fund programs unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, they condemned leaders in the Democrat Party for apparently not including Republicans in negotiations on what should be in the package.
“We could have worked together to speed up victory, but our [Democrat] colleagues made a decision their top priority was not pandemic relief, it was their Washington wishlist,” McConnell noted. “So, Mr. President, colleagues, I strongly recommend a no vote.”
In the meantime, the bill is expected to head back down to the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives Tuesday to vote on the amended bill. However, some Democrats fear more progressive members won’t support the bill after senators stripped the proposal to hike the federal minimum wage.
If the bill is passed without any hiccups, it will be sent to the White House for final approval.