Senate impasse broken, US Covid relief bill now back on track

WION Web Team
Washington, DC, United States of America Published: Mar 06, 2021, 04.19 PM(IST)

Coronavirus in USA Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

Democrats had struggled to keep Senator Joe Manchin's support for expanded unemployment aid in the sprawling measure, and he threatened to side with Republicans in the evenly divided chamber.

The US Senate has broken an impasse on the Covid relief package, setting the $1.9 trillion bill on a likely path to passage.

Democrats had struggled to keep Senator Joe Manchin's support for expanded unemployment aid in the sprawling measure, and he threatened to side with Republicans in the evenly divided chamber.

The catch is the deal reduced the jobless benefits. It, however, allowed action to resume in the Senate as it navigates toward passage of President Joe Biden's top legislative priority sometime this weekend.

Manchin was keen on more fiscal restraint than was evident in the Biden package, and was balking at an amendment that would increase weekly additional unemployment benefits from $300 to $400, and extending them through August.

The amendment also provides for tax breaks of up to $10,200 for those receiving unemployment, but only families making less than $150,000.

Without passage of the rescue package, the benefits will expire on March 14 for millions of Americans.

Manchin later said in a statement that they had reached a compromise that enables "the economy to rebound quickly while also protecting those receiving unemployment benefits from being hit with (an) unexpected tax bill next year."

Biden supports this compromise, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

With the impasse over, a lengthy amendment process known as a "vote-a-rama" was set to resume, with votes on potentially dozens of amendments filed by members of both parties.

The daunting process was likely to carry into the wee hours Saturday or beyond, especially given Friday's nine-hour delay.

Biden has heaped pressure on Democrats to clear the American Rescue Plan through Congress in the coming days, and the Manchin hurdle marked potential disaster.

Democrats are in control of a Senate that is deadlocked 50-50, so any defections within the party could kill the bill.

In the event of a tie, Vice-President Kamala Harris casts the deciding vote.

(with inputs)

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