Senate Approves Budget Resolution, Allowing Democrats To Pass Coronavirus Bill Without GOP Support

Early on Friday morning, the Senate approved a budget resolution that will allow Democrats to pass President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill without the support of Republicans, as reported by The Hill. The budget was approved with a 50-50 party-line vote which saw Vice President Kamala Harris step in as the tiebreaker. There were also dozens of amendments added to the resolution, meaning it will be sent back to the House for approval once again. That could be done as soon as Friday.

While the budget resolution is not a proper bill, it is necessary if Democrats hope to use their majority to pass measures such as the coronavirus relief and avoid the Senate’s 60-vote legislative filibuster.

“We have moved forward. Many bipartisan amendments were adopted… This was a giant first step. We will keep working as hard as we can to pass this legislation through the House, through the Senate as we go through the reconciliation process and hopefully put it on the president’s desk,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said following the vote.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks during a press conference about student debt outside the U.S. Capitol on February 4, 2021 in Washington, DC.

According to the report, the budget is effectively a shell bill. Included in it is approval for the $1.9 trillion plan as well as instructions for committees on how to construct the legislation under the reconciliation process. Now Democrats will have to put together a relief plan that may prove to be difficult despite their majority. To ensure passing, they will need every single Senate Democrat to vote to approve, creating a very thin margin for approval.

Biden’s plan includes a $1,400 direct stimulus payment, a $400 per week federal unemployment benefit, $350 billion for state and local governments, a minimum wage hike to $15 per hour, and more money for childcare, schools and vaccine distribution, according to The Hill report.

Due to the need for almost every Democrat in Congress to vote in favor, there have been rumblings from some centrist Dems with concerns over the level of spending in the deal. During the budget resolution process, there was a 99-1 vote approving an amendment for tightening income restrictions for those receiving stimulus checks. It did not specify what restrictions will be placed on the stimulus. Biden has previously indicated that while he will not budge on the $1,400 amount of the checks, he is willing to negotiate on eligibility.

A bipartisan group of senators also called for the federal unemployment benefit to be cut to $300. While Democrats have voiced a willingness to accept input from the GOP on the relief, Republican lawmakers have criticized the decision to use budget reconciliation and none have indicted that they would support Biden’s bill.