Senate Democrats managed to pass a White House-backed $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill this weekend without the support of a single Republican lawmaker.
And for all intents and purposes, we have Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) to thank for the massive blow to the federal deficit.
According to the Washington Examiner, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and his fellow Democrats wouldn’t have been able to push the relief measure through the upper chamber without first cutting a deal with key centrists like Manchin, a moderate Dem from a state that Donald Trump won in both 2016 and 2020.
Making a deal
Manchin, for his part, had reportedly been “holding out” on a provision related to unemployment benefits. The Examiner reports that Manchin sought “to reduce a proposed $400-per-week enhanced federal jobless payment to $300,” an effort that turned up successful.
In exchange, Manchin backed down from a push to end these “enhanced” payments in June and instead, agreed to extend the duration they’d be available from late August, as originally planned, to early September. The change ensures the benefits won’t expire while Congress is on recess, the Examiner reports.
Manchin also reportedly agreed to make the first $10,600 in unemployment benefits nontaxable for recipients earning less than $150,000 per year.
The senator celebrated the deal in a statement Friday, the day before a vote in the upper chamber.
“We have reached a compromise that enables the economy to rebound quickly while also protecting those receiving unemployment benefits from being hit with unexpected tax bill next year,” Manchin said, according to the Examiner.
A defeat for the GOP
The $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package ultimately passed in the Senate on Saturday in a 50–49 vote that fell entirely along party lines, NBC News reported.
Arkansas Sen. Dan Sullivan (R) missed the vote due to a family emergency, circumventing the need for Vice President Kamala Harris to break a tie.
The House passed its own version of the relief bill in late February, and is now expected to quickly greenlight the Senate’s version, according to CNBC. From there, the bill will be headed to President Joe Biden’s desk for a signature.
Despite the GOP’s best efforts, Democrats seem to have secured their costly COVID wishlist.