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Senate moves forward with stimulus bill “vote-a-rama” after nearly 12 hours of stalemate

The “vote-a-rama” for President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, a grueling Senate process of voting on a series of amendments, resumed shortly before midnight on Friday after nearly 12 hours of stalemate within the Democratic caucus over an unemployment insurance benefit.

Senate Democrats reached a deal accepted by Senator Joe Manchin, the lone Democratic holdout, on Friday evening, after Manchin had an extended meeting with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. The compromise amendment extends additional unemployment insurance benefits through September 6 at $300 per week. It also makes the first $10,200 of unemployment insurance benefits non-taxable for households with incomes under $150,000, and extends tax rules regarding excess business loss limitations to 2026.

The amendment was approved by a vote of 50 to 49 shortly after 1 a.m. It is almost identical to an amendment proposed under a deal reached Friday morning by progressives and moderates, with the only change being the income limit for the non-taxable benefits.

Read more: COVID-19: Osun govt relaxes curfew, orders civil servants to resume work

Manchin, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia, has assumed a powerful role in the caucus because he’s one of the deciding votes in an evenly divided Senate. Democrats have 50 seats, which means that there is no room for dissent in the ranks: losing the support of a single senator means losing the overall vote. Earlier in the day, Manchin had appeared to lean towards supporting an amendment introduced by GOP Senator Rob Portman that would have cut the unemployment insurance benefit from $400 to $300 and extended it only through June.

The “vote-a-rama” resumed shortly before midnight with a vote on Portman’s amendment, which passed by a vote of 50-49, with Manchin’s support. However, that amendment will be superseded by the Democratic amendment, which Manchin also supported, and will be included in the final bill.

The “vote-a-rama” initially began on Friday morning with a failed vote on an amendment proposed by Senator Bernie Sanders that would have raised the federal minimum wage. But the vote stayed open even after all senators had voted, preventing the next amendment from being considered, as Democrats scrambled behind the scenes to convince Manchin to support their amendment.

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