The Senate has passed a coronavirus relief bill that will cost $1.9 billion.
The party-line vote was 50-49. Republican Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska had to rush home to attend the funeral of his father-in-law. His absence meant that Vice President Kamala Harris did not have to cast her tie-breaking vote as president pro tempore.
The Senate had been tied up for days debating and voting on dozens of amendments offered by Republicans who sought to slow down the process to crawl. But Majority Leader Senator Chuck Schumer and the White House forged ahead until a vote was assured.
It’s debatable how much of that $1.9 trillion will go toward actual pandemic relief and how much there is in payoffs to Democratic constituencies who helped elect Joe Biden president.
The package includes $130 billion in funds for K-12 schools, intended to help districts reduce class sizes to accommodate social distancing, improve ventilation systems, and make other changes. One measure introduced by Senator Maggie Hassan (D., N.H.) requires schools that receive funding to provide reopening plans within 30 days. However, the relief bill does not mandate that schools reopen for in-person learning.
Federal unemployment benefits will continue at $300 per week until September 6 under the legislation. House Democrats had attempted to raise unemployment assistance to $400 per week until October, but that plan was scrapped following objections by Senator Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.).
The bill also includes $1400 in individual payments to most taxpayers. Payments are phased out for individuals making $80,000 and married couples making $160,000.
The bill now goes to the House where the two versions will be reconciled and sent to the president.