Senate Democrats pushed through a vote approving a $1.9 trillion economic recovery plan over rabid Republican opposition, sending the measure back to the House for final approval before President Joe Biden signs it.
The centerpiece of Biden's economic recovery package will extend unemployment benefits through the summer as well as distribute $1,400 checks to individuals making less than $75,000, and couples making less than $150,000.
It also would provide substantial assistance to local and state governments who were largely left to their own devices by the Trump administration to organize, administer and pay for the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the measure was "perhaps the most significant bill to help the poor and working people in decades."
Biden said after the passage that "when we took office 45 days ago, I promised the American people that help was on the way. Today I can say we've taken one more giant step forward on delivering on that promise."
The bill was approved by a 50-49 vote. One Republican senator was absent, attending a relative's funeral. Passage of the measure was held up for hours by a dispute over how long to extend unemployment benefits and how much they should be.
Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), who opposed the higher unemployment payments originally proposed, signaled support late Friday for $300 a week payments through the summer and tax relief on the first $10,000 in payments.
“The president has made it clear we will have enough vaccines for every American by the end of May, and I am confident the economic recovery will follow,” Manchin said in a statement. “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 bills.
Attempts earlier by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to include a $15 minimum wage in the bill failed.
Republicans, did everything they could to delay and disrupt the measure, with one insisting that the entire piece of legislation, more than 600 pages, be read aloud into the record by Senate clerks - that took place Thursday evening. Republicans also introduced scores of amendments overnight. Even though none of them stood a chance of passing, each one required a time-consuming roll-call vote.
The bill will now go back to the House of Representatives for their approval of changes made by the Senate, before heading to the White House for Biden’s signature.