President Joe Biden’s drive to enact a $1.9 trillion coronavirus aid bill gained momentum on Friday as the U.S. Senate narrowly approved a budget blueprint allowing Democrats to push the legislation through Congress in coming weeks with or without Republican support.
At the end of about 15 hours of debate and votes on dozens of amendments, the Senate found itself in a 50-50 partisan deadlock over passage of the budget plan.
That deadlock was broken by Vice President Kamala Harris, whose “yes” vote provided the win for Democrats. This was a “giant first step” toward passing the kind of comprehensive coronavirus aid bill that Biden has put at the top of his legislative agenda, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said. Shortly before the final vote, Democrats flexed their muscles by offering an amendment reversing three earlier votes that Republicans had won.
Senate Democrats and the Biden administration have said they want comprehensive legislation to move quickly to address a pandemic that has killed more than 450,000 Americans and left millions jobless. They want to spend the $1.9 trillion to speed COVID-19 vaccines throughout the nation.
Other funds would extend special unemployment benefits that will expire at the end of March and make direct payments to people to help them and stimulate the economy. pay bills They also want to send money to state and local governments dealing the worst health crisis in decades.