The U.S. Senate is expected to take up President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package on Wednesday, with fellow Democrats seeking to advance key priorities and jettison aspects that have drawn unflattering scrutiny.
The bill would pay for vaccines and medical supplies, boost jobless assistance and send a new round of emergency financial aid to households, small businesses and state and local governments. Democrats aim to get it to Biden to sign into law before March 14, when some current benefits expire.
With Republican cooperation unlikely, Democrats who narrowly control the chamber need to stick together to pass Biden’s top legislative priority.
That will require them to sort out a welter of competing ideas as they seek to advance the bill, which passed the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives last Saturday. The COVID-19 pandemic has killed 515,000 Americans and thrown millions out of work.
First to go will be a minimum-wage increase, which the Senate parliamentarian said last week could not be included in the package if Democrats want to invoke a special procedure that would allow them to pass the bill with a simple majority, rather than the 60 votes needed to advance most legislation in the 100-seat chamber.
Democrats and their allies currently control 50 seats, with Vice President Kamala Harris giving them a tie-breaking vote if needed.