Senators pull all-nighter inching toward COVID-19 relief vote
Senators worked throughout the night Friday into Saturday as the chamber considered various amendments to the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, with a final vote expected later in the day.
The chamber is holding a marathon voting session known as a vote-a-rama, where any senator can force a vote on potential changes to the mammoth relief package. Democrats have rejected a series of proposed GOP changes to the bill.
The Senate voted on 22 amendments or motions to alter the bill as of 8:15 a.m. on Saturday as the grueling session appeared to be taking its toll, with the vote-a-rama stretching past 20 hours.
At one point, Senate Health Committee Chairwoman Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayBiden convenes bipartisan meeting on cancer research Pro-Choice Caucus asks Biden to remove abortion fund restrictions from 2022 budget Senate Democrats offer fresh support for embattled Tanden MORE (D-Wash.) ripped Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordRon Johnson grinds Senate to halt, irritating many Senate coronavirus bill delayed until Thursday GOP targets Manchin, Sinema, Kelly on Becerra MORE’s (R-Okla.) amendment to ensure restrictions on publicly-funded abortions as a shallow political attack.
“It is frustrating but not at all surprising that in the middle of a pandemic, as we are working to get urgently needed relief to our families, to our small businesses and our communities across the country, some Republicans would rather spend time launching political attacks,” she fumed.
Senators weighed the series of amendments after debate was held up on Friday for nearly 12 hours as Democratic leaders scrambled to save the massive relief proposal, the first major piece of legislation pushed by President BidenJoe BidenSenate holds longest vote in history as Democrats scramble to save relief bill Ex-Trump appointee arrested in Capitol riot complains he won’t be able to sleep in jail Biden helps broker Senate deal on unemployment benefits MORE since he took office.
Presiding over the Senate as we work to pass President Biden’s Rescue Plan. No matter how long it takes, we will get this done. pic.twitter.com/rfJksBGUG4
— Senator Dick DurbinDick DurbinDemocrats break COVID-19 impasse with deal on jobless benefits COVID-19 relief debate stalls in Senate amid Democratic drama Democrats close in on deal to provide tax relief for unemployment recipients MORE (@SenatorDurbin) March 6, 2021
Senators worked deep into the night proposing changes to the relief bill. At around 3:45 a.m., some senators were already discussing breakfast, with Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerLawmakers demand changes after National Guard troops at Capitol sickened from tainted food Ron Johnson forces reading of 628-page Senate coronavirus relief bill on floor Senate panel splits along party lines on Becerra MORE (D-N.Y.) seen walking up to Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHillicon Valley: YouTube to restore Trump’s account | House-passed election bill takes aim at foreign interference | Senators introduce legislation to create international tech partnerships On The Money: Senate votes to take up COVID-19 relief bill | Stocks sink after Powell fails to appease jittery traders | February jobs report to provide first measure of Biden economy Senators introduce bill creating technology partnerships to compete with China MORE (D-Va.) to ask him what food he planned to order.
Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstRepublicans demand arms embargo on Iran after militia strikes in Iraq Republicans blast Pentagon policy nominee over tweets, Iran nuclear deal Democrats cut deals to bolster support for relief bill MORE (R-Iowa) was spotted covered in a blanket and resting on a couch in the Senate cloakroom and Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyCOVID-19 relief debate stalls in Senate amid Democratic drama First Black secretary of Senate sworn in Press: The big loser: The Republican Party MORE (D-Vt.) appeared to doze for a few minutes in his chair on the floor as senators tried to get some rest during the night-long session.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell makes failed bid to adjourn Senate after hours-long delay Paul Ryan to host fundraiser for Cheney amid GOP tensions Senate Democrats near deal to reduce jobless boost to 0 MORE (R-Ky.) made an unsuccessful push before midnight to adjourn the Senate until Saturday, punting debate on the bill after it sat in limbo for hours as Democrats tried to put together a proposal on unemployment benefits that all 50 Democrats could back.
“They want to begin the vote-a-rama that could have been done in daylight because of their own confusion and the challenges of getting together 50 people to agree on something when they could have doing it quicker on a bipartisan basis,” McConnell said. “So rather than start the voting at five minutes to 11, I move to adjourn until 10 a.m.”
Democrats, who hold a slim majority in the chamber, voted down the effort.
“I don’t care how long it takes or if it’s inconvenient. We are about to pass one of the most popular and important pieces of federal legislation in decades. I’m a happy warrior,” Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzMinimum wage setback revives progressive calls to nix Senate filibuster Little known Senate referee to play major role on Biden relief plan Bipartisan group of lawmakers proposes bill to lift rule putting major financial burden on USPS MORE (D-Hawaii) tweeted shortly before 2 a.m.
Schumer pushed to negotiate a deal with Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSenate Democrats vote to provide 0 unemployment benefits into September Senate GOP gets short-lived win on unemployment fight McConnell makes failed bid to adjourn Senate after hours-long delay MORE (D-W.Va.) over the unemployment benefits, with Senate Democrats announcing an agreement Friday night after the hours-long delay.
Biden also got involved in talks to help break the impasse, with senators saying he called Manchin directly to help get him to back the proposal supported by the rest of the Democratic caucus.
The agreement reached by Democrats would provide a $300 per week unemployment payment through Sept. 6 and make the first $10,200 of benefits non-taxable for households that have an income below $150,000.
That amendment, from Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSenate Democrats vote to provide 0 unemployment benefits into September Senate holds longest vote in history as Democrats scramble to save relief bill Biden helps broker Senate deal on unemployment benefits MORE (D-Ore.), was adopted in a party-line vote of 50-49 early Saturday morning.
The chamber had previously held just one vote on whether to add a minimum wage hike to the COVID-19 package. That proposal from Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersMcConnell makes failed bid to adjourn Senate after hours-long delay Senate holds longest vote in history as Democrats scramble to save relief bill Democrats break COVID-19 impasse with deal on jobless benefits MORE (I-Vt.), raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, was rejected.
In keeping open the vote on the minimum wage proposal for almost 12 hours, Democrats set a new record for the longest vote in modern Senate history.
Updated: 8:20 a.m.