Senate Begins Debate Over $1.9 Trillion Relief Bill

by mcardinal

Michael Cardinal, FISM News


The Senate voted along party lines to take up Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act on Thursday. Democrats were able to push the bill through to debate with a 51-50 margin, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote in an evenly split Senate.

This will kick off a marathon session of Congress that will likely proceed into the weekend. Within minutes of the bill being brought to the floor, Senator Ron Johnson (WI-R) objected to the amendment that the bill not be read in full, forcing the full reading of the 628-page document. On Twitter he remarked, “If they’re going to add nearly $2T to the national debt at least we should know what’s in the bill.”

The reading of bill, which began around 3:20pm on Thursday, is expected to take around 10 hours to read. Once the reading ends, Republicans plan to bring several proposed amendments to the floor which will further delay a final vote on the bill.

The Republican party stands staunchly opposed to the bloated bill, under the conviction that Democrats are trying to use the pandemic as an excuse to pass through a progressive agenda. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell commented,

Washington Democrats are trying to exploit the last chapters of this crisis to pass the most progressive domestic legislation in a generation.”

Forbes reports that “only $825 billion was directly related to Covid-19 relief and $1 trillion are expansions of progressive programs, pork, and unrelated policy changes.” Some of the supposed necessary relief includes $270 million funds the National Endowment of the Arts and the Humanities, $50 million for “family planning” entities such as Planned Parenthood, and $1.5 million for the Seaway International Bridge.

Republicans also point towards the promising signs that the economy is opening up and rebounding as a further reason that adding this exorbitant amount of money to an already bulging national debt as irresponsible.

The Democrats tweaked the bill slightly from the bill that passed the House to ensure that their party remained united, giving some small concessions to the more moderate members of their contingency. The main concession came Wednesday when President Biden signed off on tightening the window to those who would receive checks. Under the revision individuals who made over $80,000, and married couples who made over $160,000 would not receive a relief check. Another amendment passed on Thursday ensuring a greater share of money will be allocated for rural municipalities.

The Senate parliamentarian had previously ruled that the $15 minimum wage hike be removed from the bill based on budgetary rules. Despite this, Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT-D) encouraged the Democrats to “ignore” the parliamentarian ruling and vote on the measure anyway. It appears that if the Democrats do take this unethical step, it is unlikely they would have the votes among themselves to pass it anyway.

If the bill is passed through the Senate, it will return back to the House of Representatives for approval, before going to Biden to be signed into law.