The Senate approved a budget bill early Friday that paves the way for passage of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, with Vice President Harris casting the tiebreaking vote on the measure that will be key to enacting Biden’s first major legislative initiative.
Passage of the budget bill by a 51-to-50 vote came just after 5:30 a.m. Friday, after an all-night Senate session during which senators plowed through dozens of amendments in a chaotic process known as a “vote-a-rama.” Democrats cheered on progress to address the pandemic, while Republicans complained of partisanship and excessive spending.
The House, which approved its own budget bill on Wednesday, is expected to act on on the Senate’s version within a day.
With the budget resolution nearly complete, Congress can turn in earnest to writing Biden’s expansive pandemic relief proposal into law — and push it through the Senate, without Republican votes if necessary, under the special rules unlocked by the budget legislation. That process will take weeks, with Democrats eyeing mid-March as the deadline for final passage of the relief legislation because that is when enhanced unemployment benefits will expire if Congress doesn’t act first.
“With the passage of this resolution we have the opportunity not only to address the pandemic, to address the economic collapse, to address the reality that millions of kids have seen their education disrupted,” said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). “We have the opportunity to give hope to the American people and restore faith in our government to fight for them.”
Despite Biden’s campaign promises of unity and bipartisanship, now that Democrats control both chambers of Congress and the White House they appeared ready to leave Republicans behind. Republican senators accused Democrats of hypocrisy and argued that, after already devoting $4 trillion to fighting the pandemic, including $900 billion in December, there was no need to spend another $2 trillion on what they termed a wish-list of liberal priorities.
“This is not the time for trillions more dollars to make perpetual lockdowns and economic decline a little more palatable,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). “Notwithstanding the actual needs, notwithstanding all the talk about bipartisan unity, Democrats in Congress are plowing ahead. They’re using this phony budget to set the table to ram through their $1.9 trillion rough draft.”
The House passed the budget legislation on Wednesday, with all Republicans opposed.
The agenda of the budget resolution passed today is not the agenda of wealthy campaign contributors. It is not the agenda of the billionaire class. It is the agenda of the working people of America and with its passage we are closer to restoring their faith in our government.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) February 5, 2021
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