The U.S. Senate approved President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package early Friday (Feb. 5), The Wall Street Journal reported.
The House had passed its own budget resolution and will consider the Senate’s version. The tie-breaking vote was cast by Vice President Kamala Harris in her first tie-breaking vote.
The House and Senate have to greenlight the same versions of proposed legislation. Lawmakers are planning to approve a version prior to expanded unemployment benefits ending in mid-March.
Part of Biden’s relief plan calls for gradually raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, but Congress could be prevented from raising the minimum wage to that amount because of a Republican amendment. Biden’s proposal also aims to increase federal unemployment assistance, expand school aid and provide $1,400 checks to many U.S. citizens. Further, the proposal would provide funds for vaccine distribution and offer aid to schools.
The amendment was approved by the Senate on a voice vote after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) said that Democrats had been looking to raise the minimum wage for many years. “I will do everything that I can to make sure a $15 an hour minimum wage is included in this reconciliation bill, but there appears to be some misunderstanding,” Sanders said. “It was never my intention to raise the minimum wage immediately and during the pandemic.”
An amendment was offered to make sure people in upper-income brackets don’t get approved for the proposed $1,400 check, as per Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.), Sen. Susan Collins (R., Maine) and a group of bipartisan senators.
At the end of last month, Republicans proposed a stimulus compromise that would provide $600 billion in COVID-19 relief. They say that their legislation offers more targeted assistance, working to provide help to the Americans with the greatest need.