The Senate on Friday embarked on a marathon voting session known as a “vote-a-rama”—it’s the latest step in the complicated legislative process that will eventually allow Senate Democrats to advance President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus bill over Republican objections, but Democrats’ razor-thin majority in that chamber means that portions of the bill could change significantly during the process. Here’s everything you need to know.
President Joe Biden participates in a roundtable discussion on the coronavirus relief package in the … [+]
As part of the process, senators will be able to introduce an unlimited number of amendments to the stimulus bill—and unlike the last vote-a-rama in the Senate (which came at the beginning of the budget reconciliation process), amendments introduced Friday have the potential to change the final legislation.
The 100-plus amendments Republicans plan to introduce Friday will be designed to divide Democrats, who hold a razor-thin majority in the chamber (50 seats plus Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaker vote) and cannot afford to lose a single vote.
Republicans will also look to force Democrats to take an on-the-record stance on controversial issues.
Democrats can introduce amendments too, and announced Friday afternoon that they had teed up a significant change to the weekly federal unemployment benefits the bill will provide.
Fraught negotiations over that jobless benefits provision held up the voting process for hours on Friday after Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a critical swing vote for Democrats, signaled that he may vote instead for an alternative plan that Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio was expected to float, CNN reported.
The vote-a-rama process will stretch late into the evening on Friday and potentially into the early hours of Saturday morning—it only stops when party leaders agree to end it.
“We’re about to vote on all kinds of amendments in the hopes of some of these ideas making it into the final product,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Friday morning. “We’re going to try to improve the bill.”
The first amendment in the session was an effort by Sen. Bernie Sanders to raise the minimum wage, which failed after eight Democratic senators opposed it.
After the vote-a-rama concludes, the Senate will vote one more time on final passage of the bill. The bill will then be sent back to the House of Representatives (which passed an earlier version of the package last weekend) so that chamber can approve the changes made by the Senate. After that, the whole package can be sent to President Biden’s desk for signature. Democratic leaders have repeatedly said they are confident that the legislation will be ready for Biden to sign by March 14, when the current tranche of enhanced federal unemployment benefits will expire.
Bernie Sanders’ Bid For A $15 Minimum Wage Fails As 8 Democrats Side With Senate GOP (Forbes)
Democrats Agree To Cut Weekly Unemployment Benefits From $400 To $300, But Exempt $10,200 In 2020 Unemployment From Federal Tax (Forbes)
Senate Readies More Changes To Biden’s $1.9 Trillion Relief Bill After Eliminating $15 Minimum Wage And Narrowing Stimulus Check Eligibility (Forbes)
McConnell Says Republicans Will Fight Biden’s $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Bill ‘In Every Way That We Can’ (Forbes)
I’m a breaking news reporter for Forbes focusing on economic policy and capital markets. I completed my master’s degree in business and economic reporting at New York