Almost a year into the coronavirus pandemic, and with millions of Americans still waiting for some kind of relief, the Senate has voted to move forward with a budget resolution that would allow a measure to pass with only a simple majority.
The 50-49 vote essentially sets the stage for debate on a budget resolution and means that a COVID-19 stimulus package could ultimately be passed with no Republican support. The House is expected to vote on a similar measure today.
Since the inauguration of President Joe Biden last month, Democrats have said that time is of the essence in passing the next relief package, as too many Americans can’t afford to wait. “I am glad that Senate Democrats took a major first step today in bringing desperately needed big, bold health and economic relief to the American people,” Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader, said in a statement.
Biden’s $1.9 trillion proposal includes direct payments to Americans in the form of $1,400 stimulus checks. It also includes $400 in weekly federal unemployment benefits, in addition to $20 billion for vaccine rollout and $350 billion for state and local aide. Republicans have said the price tag is too high and some have proposed a pared-down compromise package. It would still include checks, but they would be smaller—$1,000 instead of $1,400—and they would be phased out for Americans making more than $40,000 a year.
Yesterday’s vote was just a starting point. Schumer has said he still hopes the process can be bipartisan, and even some Democrats—notably Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia—have expressed concerns about the size of Biden’s plan. Expect lots more debate in the coming days, and probably weeks, ahead.