Senate Approves $1.9 Trillion COVID-19 Relief Package

The Senate has narrowly passed the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package with a 50-49 vote down party lines, after the House of Representatives approved the bill on Feb. 27.

The long-awaited relief package includes $1,400 stimulus checks for those making less than $75,000 annually and a $20 billion vaccination plan, as well as direct aid to small business, an increase in child tax credit and additional funding for state and local governments and schools.

The bill now moves back to the House to approve the Senate’s changes before being sent to President Joe Biden. The Senate removed provisions to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, reduced unemployment from $400 to $300 per week and lowered the income restrictions that determine who receives a stimulus check.

“We tell the American people, help is on the way,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said of the approval, according to the AP. “Our job right now is to help our country get from this stormy present to that hopeful future.”

The Senate’s approval did not include the hotly debated provision stipulating the increase in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour after the Senate parliamentarian ruled against it under the procedure known as reconciliation, which Senate Democrats are using to pass the bill with a simple majority vote. The bill will now go back to the House for a separate vote before it can get on President Joe Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

As expected, Congress’ vote unfolded along party lines. Congressional Republicans have argued that the legislation represents a government overstep and complained that they have been barred from the process of crafting the measure. Democrats have countered by saying they are willing to work with Republicans but will not dilute their plans to take sweeping action to address the pandemic that has left many in need of dire federal assistance.

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