NewsUSA and CanadaU.S. Senate to vote on COVID-19 assistance

    U.S. Senate to vote on COVID-19 assistance

    The U.S. Senate was heading into a marathon voting session Friday on the $1.9 billion Democratic economic assistance bill for the COVID-19 pandemic after enduring an extraordinary half-day delay caused by a Republican foe of President Joe Biden’s top legislative priority.

    The upper chamber was scheduled to begin voting around noon on a mountain of amendments, mostly from Republican opponents and virtually all destined to be rejected. That would put the Senate on track to pass its revised version of the massive bill, probably over the weekend, and send it back to the House so the House can deliver the final package to Biden for his signature.

    Enactment would give the president a major, early legislative victory.

    Moments after the Senate received the bill on Thursday, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson pulled a stunt to delay the proceedings: he forced House clerks to read aloud the entire 628-page measure. The grueling task took clerks 10 hours and 44 minutes and ended shortly after 2 a.m. Friday. Johnson spent the time sitting or pacing the nearly empty chamber.

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    Republicans allege the proposal’s huge price tag ignored promising signs that the end of the pandemic is in sight and the damaged economy is recovering.

    Democratic leaders made more than a dozen late additions to the package Thursday, reflecting their need to cement unanimous support from all their senators, plus the tie-breaking vote of Vice Chairwoman Kamala Harris, to succeed in the upper chamber, which was split 50-50.

    The 51-50 vote in the Senate to begin debate on the aid package, with Harris’ vote boosting the Democrats, highlighted the way the proposal was navigated through Congress with virtually no margin for error. In the House of Representatives, their majority is a mere 10 votes.

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    The proposal, aimed at combating the virus and helping the damaged economy get back on track, will provide direct payments of up to $1,400 to most Americans.

    There is also money for coronavirus vaccines and diagnostic tests, funds to help state and local governments, as well as schools and the airline industry, plus tax breaks for low-income people and families with children and for health insurance subsidies.

    We are not going to be shy in the face of a big challenge, commented Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat.

    The new provisions offered attractive elements for all types of Democrats. Progressives got money to boost food programs, federal health care subsidies for workers who lose their jobs, tax-free student loans and money for public broadcasting and consumer protection investigations.

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    Moderates who got funding for rural health care, assuring minimal amounts of money to smaller states and a prohibition that states receiving aid not use the extra revenue to cut taxes and for all, there was money for infrastructure, cultural centers, start-up companies (fledgling or newly created companies generally focused on the internet and other new technologies) and after-school programs.

    Even with the late revisions, there was a good chance lawmakers would make another one and vote to reduce emergency unemployment benefits from the bill’s $400 per week to $300.

    That possible change could also extend those emergency payments an extra month, through September. That’s how aides and a lobbyist who spoke on condition of anonymity described the internal conversations.

    Bazezew Zerihun
    Bazezew Zerihun
    Bazezew Zerihun is the Founder, CEO & EDITOR IN CHIEF of Awutar. He lives in Bole, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. By profession, he is Blogger, Content Writer, Web Designer, and Developer. If you want to get in touch with him write via: [email protected]


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