Senate Democrats passed President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan on Saturday afternoon in a 50-49 vote after a grueling all-night voting session, pushing the massive relief bill over a crucial hurdle on its way to becoming law over the objections of the Republican Party and setting up a major victory for Biden in the early days of his presidency.
The legislation will authorize hundreds of billions of dollars in federal spending for vaccine distribution and virus testing, hospitals, state and local governments, schools and small businesses to combat the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and offset its economic toll.
The bill includes a third round of stimulus checks in the amount of $1,400 for eligible individuals, another tranche of enhanced federal unemployment benefits of $300 per week, a major expansion of the child tax credit, tax relief for canceled student loan debt and billions of dollars for rental and food assistance.
Provisions like those, which are designed to provide direct aid to American families struggling to stay afloat amid the slowdown, prompted Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to predict that the legislation will be the “single largest anti-poverty bill in recent history.”
Republicans widely oppose the package: they say it is too expensive, describe it as unnecessary given the pace of economic recovery and object to provisions they view as unrelated to the coronavirus crisis.
Some economists and lawmakers have suggested the bill’s $1.9 trillion price tag could trigger dangerous inflation and destabilize the nascent economic recovery, but Biden’s White House and top Democrats have consistently said “big” spending is warranted given the sheer scale of the crisis.
During a brutal legislative process called a “vote-a-rama” that dragged for more than 24 hours on Friday and Saturday, Democrats defeated a slew of GOP amendments to the bill, including a bid to replace the entire package with a $650 billion version instead and attempts to bar undocumented immigrants and incarcerated individuals from receiving stimulus checks.