The U.S. Senate worked overnight through Saturday to promote President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan, in a marathon session that involved more than a dozen of voting and hours of negotiations behind closed doors.
Democrats who closely control the chamber agreed to cut aid to the millions who lost their jobs in the crisis. As Friday night turned into early Saturday morning, they stood together to reject Republican attempts to change the bill, which the Congressional Budget Office said would be the largest stimulus package in history.
With Republicans united in opposition, Democrats must keep their 50 members in line to pass the package, something they hope will happen this weekend.
They were subjected to multiple tests on Friday, when Democrats split in an effort to raise the minimum wage.
The Senate set a record for the longest single vote in the modern era, at 11 hours and 50 minutes, as Democrats negotiated a compromise on unemployment benefits to satisfy centrists like Sen. Joe Manchin, who worried that the massive package could overheat the economy.
Once this was resolved, the senators began working on hundreds of proposals to modify the project.
Democrats rejected Republican proposals to modify the distribution of money to schools, state governments, transportation systems and farmers. Republicans lost a vote after Senator Dan Sullivan left Washington for a family funeral in Alaska.
The largest public health crisis in a century has killed more than 521,000 people in the United States, put millions out of work, and disrupted most aspects of everyday life.
The relief legislation includes funding for vaccines and medical supplies, extends unemployment assistance, and provides a new round of emergency financial assistance to households, small businesses, and state and local governments.
Polls show broad public support for the package. Democrats hope Biden will sign the law before some of the current benefits expire on March 14.
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