Senate Agrees to $300 Weekly Jobless Aid Through End of August in COVID-19 Relief Bill

The Senate in the early hours of Saturday voted to reduce the weekly unemployment benefit from $400 to $300 per week for recipients through the end of August in the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill.

The amendment from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) was agreed to by a vote of 50-49 after hours of negotiations among Democrats.

Under the new arrangement, the first $10,200 that people receive of unemployment benefits will be eligible for a tax break for those making less than $150,000.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) also proposed an amendment to extend the $300 benefit through July 18, which also passed 50-49 but was later essentially overtaken by the Wyden amendment.

The amendments were made during the vote-a-rama, a marathon voting session where any lawmaker can bring amendments to the floor for a vote that can be passed with a simple majority. Republicans had one less vote because Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) left Washington to his home state to attend a family funeral.

The votes on the two amendments came after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) earlier in the evening announced that a deal had been reached among Senate Democrats as to the provision on unemployment benefits and tax breaks. Democrats had for hours during the day tried to get Manchin’s support. He is arguably the chamber’s most conservative Democrat.

Before the unemployment benefits amendments, senators voted 58-42 against an amendment from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to increase the hourly minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 over the next five years. Eight Democrats voted against the proposal.

The Senate fell far short of the 60 votes needed to overrule the Senate parliamentarian’s decision that a minimum wage increase cannot be included in the bill because of special rules governing debate.

The final vote on the $1.9 trillion bill is anticipated for Saturday. If the Senate passes the bill, the House would have to sign off on the amendments before Biden could sign it into law.

Democrats are seeking for the bill to be signed by Biden before March 14, when enhanced unemployment benefits and some other aid are due to expire.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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