Vice President Kamala Harris cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate early Friday morning to approve a new government budget for 2021, clearing the legislative space for Democrats to pursue a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief plan.
But Republicans managed to win some amendments shaping who should get assistance, signaling that Democrats could struggle as they try to maintain unity on the final package they now must write.
Senators voted to prevent stimulus checks from going to illegal immigrants, and voted overwhelmingly to better target stimulus checks, after learning that households with incomes topping $300,000 have been eligible for checks in previous go-arounds.
But Democrats did defeat an effort to prevent schools from claiming federal cash if they refuse to reopen in person, even after teachers have access to vaccines.
None of the amendments is binding on Democrats moving forward anyway, but they do suggest President Biden will have to accept some cuts and tweaks that could limit the scope of his $1.9 trillion proposal.
The House, which already passed a version of the budget earlier this week, will now vote on the Senate version so both sides are working off the same text.
Despite the few GOP wins, the story of the 15 hours of voting was Democrats’ ability to stick together and defeat most controversial Republican amendments on a 50-50 tie vote.
“I am so thankful that our caucus stayed together in unity,” said Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat. “We had no choice given the problems facing America and the desire to move forward. And we have moved forward.”
Republicans cheered the amendments they passed, but complained that passage of the budget could cut them out of final negotiations, since it allows Democrats to approve a final bill without having to worry about a filibuster in the Senate.
GOP lawmakers pointed out that five previous rounds of coronavirus relief last year had been bipartisan. At that time, Democrats controlled the House while Republicans controlled the Senate and the White House. Now, Democrats hold a majority in both chambers and have the White House.
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