Good News: COVID Bill Advances Without Destructive GOP Amendments

The Senate approved a $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan on Saturday, as Democrats fought through a marathon debate — and overcame dissent from moderates within their own ranks — to move one step closer to delivering President Biden his first legislative victory.

Democrats voted to adopt the bill without any Republican support after a more than 24-hour, around-the-clock session. The bill includes funding for vaccine distribution, a new round of up-to $1,400 stimulus checks for millions of Americans, $350 billion for cash-strapped cities and states, $130 billion for schools, and other sizable sums for a wide array of programs including food assistance, and rental relief. The bill makes the first $10,200 in unemployment benefits tax-free for households with an income of up to $150,000, dealing with the nasty surprise tax bills the unemployed are now experiencing.

The bill also authorizes an additional $300-per-week in unemployment payments until September 6, instead of September 30 as House Democrats initially had approved earlier in the month. This relatively minor concession to allow West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin to claim a victory after 9 hours of standoff between him and Leader Schumer, along with the deletion of the $15 minimum wage provision, requires the House to pass the bill again. That is likely to happen Tuesday, before unemployment benefits run out on Wednesday.

The Senate spent the night voting down GOP amendments. One planned by Mitt Romney, however, did not even come to the floor. We included this “Trust Act” in our federal legislative alert for the week because of the danger it poses to Social Security and Medicare. Though it wasn’t proposed as an amendment last night, it still lingers as a threat, and one supported by Senator Sinema. So, we’ll stay alert to it.

As for Sinema’s other antics yesterday, we clearly disapprove. Not only of the behavior (cake and dancing, really?) — a position her office claims is “sexist — but most certainly of the vote against including the $15 minimum wage in this bill. The time for so-called principled defense of Senate procedure is long past in this age of radical QAnon Republicanism. If Democrats are to deliver on their promises, they need to use their majority to do so. And if they don’t deliver on their promises, we’ll lose in 2022. Thanks to Senator Mark Kelly for recognizing that and voting yes to including the minimum wage in this bill.

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