(Headline USA) Senate passage of the sweeping $1.9 trillion bailout bill Saturday puts President Joe Biden‘s top priority closer to becoming law.
“Lessons learned: If we have unity, we can do big things,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told The Associated Press in an interview after the vote.
The outcome “gives us optimism about doing more big things in the future — because it worked,” he said.
Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-ND, called the Democrats “gross” for passing a pork bill under the guise of the coronavirus.
“Democrats are using a global health pandemic to go on a shopping spree with taxpayer dollars, buying as many items off their liberal wish-list as they can get their hands on,” he said.
He outlined the bill’s wasteful spending.
“Deceitfully labeled COVID-19 relief, this bill incentivizes workers to stay unemployed even as the economy recovers, gives federal employees weeks of additional paid leave with virtually no stipulations, bails out cities and states facing financial ruin after years of mismanagement by Democrats, and authorizes funding for years down the road, even as much of last year’s relief packages has yet to be spent.”
Some of Biden’s success or failure depends on the Senate, where Democrats are in command of an evenly split chamber, 50-50, a majority so delicate that any one senator can upend the legislative agenda.
While Vice President Kamala Harris is able to break tie votes, Schumer has zero slack if Republicans are opposed, voting lockstep as they did Saturday against the virus aid as bloated and unnecessary.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., wavered over an unemployment provision, throwing the proceedings into chaos before a grueling all-night session.
Biden has been telling senators privately their vote on pandemic aid will build momentum for the next priorities. An ambitious infrastructure package is emerging, part of his “Build Back Better” campaign agenda, to bring roads, broadband and green-energy projects nationwide.
He and Schumer spoke often as the Senate leader steered the pandemic aid to approval.
It’s now headed back to the House for a final vote, as soon as Monday.
While no senators appeared ready to tank Biden’s top priority, the next votes could prove more difficult.
“There’s a whole series of issues that that quite a few of us were discussing,” said Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., a Biden ally eager for bipartisanship, who spoke to the president a few minutes after the vote.
“This was a reminder yesterday that, in a 50-50 Senate, if any one member changes their mind on an amendment, or vote or an issue, it can change the outcome,” Coons said.
Voting rights, immigration law changes and other bills will be subject to filibuster rules that require 60 votes for passage, rather than 51, a potentially impossible hurdle in the face of Republican opposition.
Some Democrats want to scrap the filibuster.
“We’re going to have to have discussions about that,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., a member of leadership.
On Saturday, Democrats elbow-bumped and cheered in the chamber — Stabenow said some were almost in tears — as they passed the massive spending package.
The bill includes $300 a week in extra unemployment benefits, money school reopenings, eviction protections and small business assistance.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press.