Democrats are leading the effort to push a relief measure in the evenly divided Senate. They hope to allow another round of government resources to be in place when the latest round of federal unemployment benefits expire next week. Kris Van Cleave reports.
– The mad scramble over President Biden’s nearly $2 trillion coronavirus relief package. Right now, Democrats are leading the effort to push the measure in the evenly divided Senate. They hope to allow another round of government resources to be in place when the latest round of federal unemployment benefits is set to expire late next week. The measure calls for $1,400 stimulus checks to Americans making $75,000 a year or less.
Emergency grants and loans to small businesses, state and local government aid, money for public health and an extension of unemployment benefits. On Friday, the Labor Department reported 3,079 new jobs were added to the nation’s economy last month. Mr. Biden says that proves the urgency of this relief package.
We are covering this store from Capitol– story from Capitol Hill and the White House this morning where it has been a long night. We’ll begin with Kris Van Cleave on Capitol Hill. Kris, I hope you’re not too tired. What’s the latest there right now?
KRIS VAN CLEAVE: Well, good morning, Jeff. We are about 20 hours, 20 amendments, three of which passed, and one motion to adjourn into this and still going. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said late last night, “Make no mistake, we’re going to continue working until we get the job done.”
Well, that job is not done yet. The Senate’s vote-a-rama got sidetracked for 12 hours by what some are calling vote-a-drama. Democrats spent half a day deadlocked over an Amendment dealing with unemployment benefits. After sometimes heated discussions, holdout Joe Manchin of West Virginia agreed to extend federal unemployment benefits through early September, but lower the amount from $400 to $300 weekly.
That matches the current figure. The Amendment will also make some unemployment benefits tax free. Once that deal was in place, the actual vote-a-rama could get started. This is part of an arcane legislative process known as reconciliation where the Senate can pass this $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill with a simple majority.
But first, every single Senator gets to offer as many amendments as they want and Republicans have a lot of amendments. Why? Because it lets them force Democrats to vote on issues they might not otherwise want to, something you can bring up later in say, an attack ad. Now, one of the big questions this Congress has been, how long could Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer keep his razor thin majority in lock step?
Well, yesterday that lasted until about noon. It underscores just how precarious a 50-50 split in the Senate can be. One thing that is working in the Democrats favor here is Republicans are down a Senator. Dan Sullivan of Alaska is attending a family funeral.
So right now there is a 59-49 majority here in the Senate for Democrats. We expect a vote possibly later today. Likely to pass on a party line vote. Dana?
– All right. Kris, thank you. Precarious, the key word there, obviously.