‘Help is on the way:’ Senate passes Biden’s massive $1.9 trillion COVID stimulus plan in 50-49 party-line vote

The Senate narrowly voted Saturday to approve President Biden’s sprawling $1.9 trillion COVID stimulus plan, giving the new president a massive legislative victory.

The party-line 50-49 vote came after a late night compromise with conservative Democratic kingmaker Sen. Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, over unemployment benefits cleared the way.

An unusual round of applause erupted from Democrats in the normally staid Senate chamber as the vote total was announced just before 12:30 p.m.

“It has been a long day, a long night, a long year. But a new day has come,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). “We tell the American people, help is on the way.”

U.S. President Joe Biden at a roundtable meeting with Americans who will benefit from the COVID-19 pandemic relief checks that are a part of the American Rescue Plan on March 5, 2021 in Washington, DC.
U.S. President Joe Biden at a roundtable meeting with Americans who will benefit from the COVID-19 pandemic relief checks that are a part of the American Rescue Plan on March 5, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

The bill passed the evenly divided Senate by a one-vote margin because Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) had to return to his home state for his father-in-law’s funeral.

It now returns to the House of Representatives for final passage and then heads to the White House for Biden’s signature.

Biden’s top priority, the new stimulus bill aims to crush the killer coronavirus pandemic and jump start the still-struggling economy.

The bill provides direct payments of up to $1,400 to most Americans, money for COVID-19 vaccines and testing, along with billions in aid to hard-pressed state and local governments, help for schools and the airline industry and new subsidies for health insurance.

Republican lawmakers voted in lockstep against the bill.

The vote is a vindication for Biden’s strategy to push forward with the huge package even if it couldn’t win any GOP support in Congress.

Democrats believe their best hope to strengthen their control over both houses of Congress lies with delivering an economic recovery to America before the midterm elections in 2022.

The measure effectively doubles down on the bipartisan $2.2 trillion stimulus package that passed last spring with near universally support.

Democrats believe the new measure is desperately needed since economic recovery has effectively petered out. Republicans say such a massive package is no longer needed and the bill is packed with goodies for liberal special interests.

A group of Republican moderates put forward a much smaller package worth $800 billion. Biden held a cordial meeting with them at the White House, but brushed off the proposal in the end.

Schumer insisted he wanted to work with Republicans and noted that Democrats worked with Trump to pass previous measures. He called out as “a little hypocritical” claims by the GOP that it was acting out of principle to object to Biden’s stimulus.