Senate passes $1.9t Covid relief bill

After a session that saw staff put in 36-hour shifts and U.S. senators voting their way through more than a dozen amendments, the upper chamber today passed President Biden's $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill.

Senators narrowed the eligibility for stimulus checks, trimmed the federal boost to unemployment benefits and removed a provision to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. The Senate parliamentarian ruled that the wage hike violated the strict rules of reconciliation, which is the procedure Democratic leaders are using to approve the bill in the chamber without any Republican support. The Senate bill contains many of the same measures aimed at assisting Americans in need that were in the legislation approved by the House and the package that Biden unveiled in January. In addition to another round of direct payments, it would provide more assistance for people who are unemployed, hungry or uninsured as well as for those at risk of losing their homes. It also would provide a bigger tax break for parents.

The most distinctive image of the session was Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat elected after supporting a $15-an-hour minimum wage who yesterday abandoned that promise in showy fashion to side with Republicans and seven other Democrats in killing the proposal.