After a nearly 12-hour stall, the Democratic UI deal was passed by 50-49.
The amendment, passed by Democrats in the early hours of Saturday morning, replaced a previous Republican victory over UI.
Democrats reached a deal on unemployment benefits after initially encountering an issue at the start of the marathon voting session on the $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief legislation. Democrat Joe Manchin had threatened to undo a deal on how to handle unemployment benefits in the package, but after eight hours of talks he agreed to a new proposal.
On Friday morning, Democrats unveiled what they believed to be an unemployment insurance deal, sponsored by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., That would cut the weekly unemployment benefit from the $ 400 allowance in the House bill to $ 300, while still allowing the allowance to continue until September rather than August. The agreement also provided that the first $ 10,200 paid under the unemployment program was tax exempt.
But Manchin, who urged his colleagues and the White House to target the bill more, was not convinced by the Carper proposal.
Manchin finally accepted a Democratic amendment to extend the enhanced unemployment insurance program until September 6 to $ 300 per week. The bill passed by the House was until August 29.
“The president supports the compromise agreement and thanks all the senators who have worked so hard to achieve this result,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement of support for the government. President Joe Biden. “It extends additional unemployment benefits until September and helps the vast majority of UI recipients avoid unforeseen tax bills. More importantly, this deal allows us to move forward with the urgently needed US bailout, with $ 1,400 in relief checks, funding we need to complete the vaccine rollout, opening our schools, helping those suffering from the pandemic, and more. “
Senate Minority Whip John Thune, RS.D., told reporters ahead of the deal he believed Democrats were working behind the scenes to keep their members united on certain amendments.
“I just think Democrats are in a dilemma right now,” Thune said. “They basically stopped the action on the pitch so they could try to persuade, I think, all of their members to stick together on some of these votes. And I think they’re afraid of losing to Portman.”
The Senate is currently divided equally between Democrats and Republicans. For Biden’s signature bill to pass, Democrats cannot afford to lose Manchin, or any other member of their caucus, in the global vote. And if Manchin votes with Republicans on cutting unemployment benefits, it risks upsetting progressive support for the comprehensive bill.
The balancing act has already forced the administration to make other concessions.
Biden and Senate Democrats reached a deal Wednesday to lower the income threshold for those who will receive partial direct payments. Individuals earning less than $ 75,000 and couples earning less than $ 150,000 will still receive full direct payment, but partial payments will be capped at $ 80,000 and $ 160,000 respectively.
The deal won over Manchin and other moderate Democrats who hoped direct payments would only go to the families and individuals most affected.
If Democrats can stick together, there is little that Republicans can do to stop the bill from passing. But that won’t stop them from proposing a long list of amendments to the bill in the hope of delaying the final vote.
The process could easily extend to Saturday morning and beyond, depending on the motivation of members.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has repeatedly called the relief bill a “liberal wish list”, said Friday morning that his members had “many ideas to improve the bill.”
“We’re about to vote on all kinds of amendments in the hope that some of these ideas will be incorporated into the final product,” McConnell said.
Already, the process has been stalled for several hours due to a request from Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., That the entire 600-page bill be read off the floor. It took over 10 hours to complete the process.
Before the amendment process began on Friday morning, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer set the stage for a long night, but said the Senate would stay there “no matter how long it takes.”
The first amendment considered this afternoon came from Senator Bernie Sanders, whose proposal would have raised the minimum wage to $ 15 an hour.
The version of the bill passed by the House included the same proposal, but it was removed from the Senate bill after the Senate parliamentarian declared it banned.
“Let’s be clear. It is the richest country in the history of the world,” Sanders said. “We can no longer tolerate millions of our workers being unable to feed their families because they work for poverty wages.”
The Sanders Amendment failed when eight Democrats joined with fellow Republicans in killing the effort. Sanders said he would continue to fight for a raise in wages.
Many other amendments will be proposed before the end of the process.
Molly Nagle of ABC News contributed to this report.