Democrats rejected all but three Republican amendments to the $1.9 trillion relief bill, which cleared the Senate in a partisan vote on March 6.
One Republican amendment to be adopted as part of the marathon vote-a-rama session that lasted more than 24 hours was amendment #1092 on reducing the unemployment insurance plus-up from $400 to $300, introduced by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio).
Portman’s amendment, which provided the extra jobless benefit until July 18, was short-lived, however. About an hour later, Democrats passed their own related amendment, which overrode Portman’s by extending the benefits through Sept. 6.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) voted with all 49 Republican senators present to approve Portman’s amendment, although he later voted with his Democratic colleagues on the superseding amendment that additionally made the first $10,200 in unemployment benefits tax-free for some households.
The third GOP proposal to pass was amendment #1233, introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), which activates $800 million of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund to help homeless youth and children amid the pandemic.
All other Republican amendments failed.
One of those to be voted down was Sen. Tim Scott’s (R-S.C.) proposal that revived his effort for transparency and investigations into COVID-19 nursing home deaths.
Another to fail was a proposal by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), which sought to ensure that schools were open at least half the time for half the students in order to be eligible for funding.
Also voted down was an amendment from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), which sought to modify a state-and-local funding formula that he said was too generous to blue states.
The bill contains some $350 billion in state and local funding, a longtime Republican bugbear. The Senate version of the bill features a compromise stipulation compared to the House version, that the money can only cover costs incurred by the end of 2024. It also prohibits states from using the money to offset tax cuts and stipulates that it cannot be used to shore up pension funds.
In a March 5 press conference, Graham, Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) and several other Senate Republicans denounced what they said was a partisan process around passing the relief bill, calling President Joe Biden’s previous calls for unity “hollow,” and denouncing the American Rescue Plan as “bloated, wasteful, and partisan.”
“They’ve chosen a partisan path. And the reason we’re not doing it together now is they don’t want to do it together. They’ve got a wish list that’s unrelated to COVID that none of us are going to buy into,” Graham said.
“They see this as an opportunity to appropriate money for their liberal wish list using COVID as the reason.”
The Senate ultimately approved the $1.9 trillion stimulus package with all 50 Democrats voting for, and all present Republicans voting against. Alaska’s Dan Sullivan had to leave to go home for the funeral of his father-in-law.
The bill, also known as the American Rescue Plan or H.R. 1319, was approved by the House on Feb. 27 by a vote of 219–212, with all Republicans and two Democrats voting against it.
The bill will be returned to the House for reconciliation, which is expected to happen early this week.