Early Friday morning, the Senate voted to accept President Biden's $1.9 trillion relief budget bill. VP Kamala Harris broke a 50-50 tie that now allows Congress to decide how to allocate the funds. Biden’s plan was first announced on January 14, and we finally get to see it start to come to life.
The rest of the morning has been spent with what the senators call a "Vote-A-Rama:” a marathon of votes on different policies and amendments encompassed by the bill. With budget guidelines in place, congress can begin putting the pieces of the bill together into a law.
Unfortunately, this means we don’t get money immediately funneled into our bank accounts. The finalized package is expected to be implemented around mid-March, so hang tight.
In the meantime, we can keep an eye on which amendments will make it through the ratification process. All of the votes taken this morning were essentially symbolic, and things can still change quite a bit over the next few weeks. Let’s do a quick overview on what we can expect from the amendments as the bill moves forward.
Amendments that were shot down during Vote-A-Rama:
- Cutting federal aid to States with ongoing investigations into under-reported nursing home deaths
- Blocking aid from schools that don't reopen after teachers have the chance to be vaccinated
- Blocking stimulus checks to inmates
- Banning a block on carbon taxing
- Something about abortion? Not sure how that one fit into a COVID relief bill.
All of the amendments above were proposed by Republicans and had a narrower vote margin than many of the amendments that were passed.
Amendments that were passed in the Vote-A-Rama:
- $1400 stimulus checks- most likely only for low-to moderate-income individuals and families
- Blocking stimulus payments to illegal immigrants
- Blocking aid to "upper-income tax-payers" (passed 99-1, see bipartisanship is real!)
- Not raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour (which even Bernie Sanders (I., VT) agreed on, stating his plan is to raise it slowly over the next five years.)
- Providing tax relief to mobile health care workers
- Compensating schools who lost tax revenue as a result of Biden’s moratorium on oil/gas development on federal land
The House is expected to back the Senate's decisions within a day.
These amendments all feed into Biden's American Rescue Plan, which promises to: mount a national vaccine distribution effort and safely reopen schools; give immediate relief to working individuals and families; and support communities struggling from the effects of the pandemic.
Biden's plan still has a long way to go before we begin to see the trickle-down of aid. Hopefully
Congress can continue to work together to help their constituents as best as they can.