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The US Senate has passed a budget resolution that allows for the passage of Joe Biden’s $1.9tn Covid-19 relief package in the coming weeks without Republican support.
The vice-president, Kamala Harris, broke a 50-50 tie by casting a vote in favour of the Democratic measure, which sends it to the House of Representatives for final approval. It marked the first time Harris, in her role as president of the Senate, cast a tie-breaking vote after being sworn in as the first female vice-president on 20 January.
The House passed its own budget measure on Wednesday. Congress can now work to write a bill that can be passed by a simple majority in both houses, which are controlled by Democrats. Mid-March has been suggested as a likely date by which the measure could be passed, a point at which enhanced unemployment benefits will expire if Congress does not act.
The vote came at 5.30am on Friday at the end of a marathon Senate debate session, known among senators as a “vote-a-rama”, a procedure whereby they can theoretically offer unlimited amendments.
Biden is scheduled to meet with Democratic House leaders and committee chairs early on Friday morning in order to discuss the Covid economic stimulus, and is expected to make public remarks on the progress at an 11.45am EST (1645 GMT) briefing.
There was dissent from Republicans in the Senate overnight, particularly over plans for a $15 federal minimum wage. Iowa’s Republican senator, Joni Ernst, raised an amendment to “prohibit the increase of the federal minimum wage during a global pandemic”, which was carried by a voice vote.
The Vermont senator Bernie Sanders said he still intended to support bringing the measure through: “We need to end the crisis of starvation wages in Iowa and around the United States.”
He outlined plans to get a wage increase, phased in over five years, included in a budget reconciliation bill. The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour, and has not been raised since 2009.
In a tweet after the vote, Sanders said: “Today, with the passage of this budget resolution to provide relief to our working families, we have the opportunity not only to address the pandemic and the economic collapse – we have the opportunity to give hope to the American people and restore faith in our government.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Kamala Harris uses casting vote to pass Covid relief budget resolution | US news