The latest on the Covid-19 stimulus bill

By Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner, Melissa Mahtani and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 8:14 PM ET, Thu March 4, 2021
25 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
5:20 p.m. ET, March 4, 2021

Catch up on where things stand on the Senate relief bill — and what comes next 

From CNN's Clare Foran, Ted Barrett and Lauren Fox

The Senate began a marathon effort to take up President Biden's $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill.

Here's what to know about the process so far, and where things are headed:

  • Opening of the debate: The chamber voted this afternoon to open debate on the legislation. In a sign of just how thin Democrats' majority is, Vice President Kamala Harris broke the 50-50 tie advancing the bill.
  • What is happening now: GOP Sen. Ron Johnson objected to dispense the reading of the bill, forcing the 628-page bill to be read out loud before 20 hours of debate can begin in earnest. A Senate clerk started reading the bill out loud around 3:20 p.m. ET and it is expected to take about 10 hours.
  • What happens next: After the bill is read, then the Senate will begin 20 hours of debate. The time is evenly divided. Republicans or Democrats could yield back time, so it could be limited if Democrats decide to give back significant portions of time. At some point, the Senate is expected to then move into a vote-a-rama, a tradition in the chamber that typically involves a large number of votes on amendments that can stretch for hours and last until late in the night. There is no saying how long that will go. You can read more about that here. Eventually, the Senate will vote on the bill. If passed in the chamber, the bill will have to go back to the House for a separate vote before Biden signs it into law.
  • What's in the bill: While the Senate bill reflects similar priorities to the House bill and includes many of the same provisions, the Senate legislation differs in a few ways. Senators narrowed the eligibility for stimulus checks and removed a provision to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. You can read about key parts of the bill here and read the full legislation here.

CNN's Tami Luhby and Katie Lobosco contributed reporting to this post. 

4:21 p.m. ET, March 4, 2021

Democratic congressman blasts full reading of the 628-page stimulus bill as a "stunt"

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

CNN
CNN

Rep. Eric Swalwell, a Democrat from California, this afternoon accused Senate Republicans of pulling a "stunt" by insisting that the entire 628-page stimulus bill be read out loud on the Senate floor. 

GOP Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin objected to dispense the reading of the legislation, so the bill is being read now on the Senate floor by the chamber's clerk.

"Americans should see the bill," said Swalwell, speaking on CNN. "That's why it's posted online." 

"To hold up the process on the floor and to have a clerk read the bill for ten hours when anyone could read it online, that's just a stunt," he added. 

Swalwell went on to say that the delay would directly hurt Americans who are eagerly awaiting relief.

"Every hour that stunts like this are pulled off is an hour that a hungry person is not fed and an unemployed person is not at work and someone in need of a vaccination like a teacher doesn't get it," he said.

Watch more:

3:34 p.m. ET, March 4, 2021

The 628-page relief bill is being read on the Senate floor now

From CNN's Manu Raju, Ali Zaslav and Ted Barrett

GOP Sen. Ron Johnson objected to dispense the reading of the bill, so the legislation is now being read on the floor by the Senate clerk. It's 628 pages long.

Aides have said they expect it to take about 10 hours. 

You can follow along and read the full bill below:

3:29 p.m. ET, March 4, 2021

Senate clears procedural vote opening debate on bill, with Vice President Harris casting tie-breaking vote

From CNN's Ali Zaslav, Lauren Fox and Barrett

Senate TV
Senate TV

The Senate successfully cleared a procedural vote to open debate on the $1.9 trillion Covid relief package. Vice President Kamala Harris cast the tie-breaking vote.

Now, we expect Sen. Ron Johnson, Republican from Wisconsin, will force a full reading of the 628-page bill, which could take about 10 hours.

3:38 p.m. ET, March 4, 2021

Senate Democrats just released their Covid-19 relief legislative text. Here are key things to know.

From CNN's Lauren Fox and the Hill Team

Senate Democrats have released their version of the Covid relief bill. It's 628 pages long.

While the bill reflects similar priorities to the House bill and includes many of the same provisions, the Senate legislation differs in a few ways.

Here are some key differences:

  • The Senate bill does not include an increase in the $15 minimum wage after the Senate parliamentarian ruled it would not be allowed under the budget rules.
  • The Senate bill also does not include two controversial transportation projects in New York and California. The bill lowers the income thresholds for who is eligible for stimulus checks.
  • Those thresholds now cut off at $80,000 for individuals and $160,000 for couples. Beginning at $75,000 and $150,000, the payments decrease up to that threshold.
  • The Senate’s bill still offers a $400 weekly federal benefit to unemployed workers and provides direct aid to state and local governments. The Senate bill, however, has given more money to lower population states than the House bill.

Many of the changes in the Senate bill reflect weeks worth of conversations between Senate moderates and the White House with those talks intensifying in recent days.

Democratic moderates fought in the final days of these talks to include more money for broadband and for rural hospitals. The legislation also increased the funding for states that were hard hit by losses in revenue from tourism.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had a difficult task. He had to win over support of all 50 members of his caucus. In order to pass the bill without Republican votes, he cannot lose a single one.

Read more about the Senate's bill here.

3:15 p.m. ET, March 4, 2021

GOP Sen. Murkowski votes no on motion to proceed to the relief bill

From CNN's Manu Raju, Ted Barrett and Ali Zaslav

Alaska GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who has said she has not decided how she’ll vote on the relief package, voted against proceeding to the bill — a clear sign of where she is headed on this measure.

Senate Minority Whip John Thune said earlier Thursday that he didn’t know how Murkowski, who is up for reelection, will vote on the bill, but said he was “hopeful” she’ll stick with Republicans in opposing it. 

3:05 p.m. ET, March 4, 2021

Biden says he's comfortable with limiting eligibility of direct stimulus payments 

From CNN's DJ Judd and Katie Lobosco

Mandal Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
Mandal Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

President Biden told reporters he was comfortable with limiting direct stimulus payments based on income in his administration’s Covid relief bill Thursday, adding he intended to continue outreach across the aisle in the hopes of getting bipartisan support. 

“We've had a number of meetings with Republicans on the coronavirus bill in the House and Senate,” Biden told reporters ahead of an Oval Office meeting on infrastructure, “a combination of both. So, we're keeping everybody informed.”

The Senate is voting now to open the debate on their version of the Covid-19 relief bill.

Biden agreed to a compromise with moderate Democrats to narrow the income eligibility for the next round of $1,400 stimulus checks included in the Senate bill, a Democratic source told CNN on Wednesday.

That means 7 million fewer families will receive a partial payment than would have under the House version of the bill, according to an estimate from the Penn Wharton Budget Model. The new proposal will completely cut off those who earn more than $160,000 a year and individuals who earn more than $80,000 a year.

The House legislation, which passed Saturday, set the income caps at $200,000 for couples and $100,000 for individuals.

On the subject at hand at today's White House event, Biden pointed to infrastructure as an area for bipartisan cooperation, telling lawmakers, “Infrastructure is, not only creates jobs, but it makes us a whole lot more competitive around the world, if we have the best infrastructure in the world.” 

Biden did not respond to shouted questions from the press pool if his next legislative priority would be an infrastructure package. 

2:42 p.m. ET, March 4, 2021

Senate is voting to open debate on the Covid-19 relief bill

From CNN's Manu Raju, Ted Barrett and Ali Zaslav 

Senate TV
Senate TV

The Senate is voting now to open the debate on their version of the Covid-19 relief bill.

"It is time to move forward with this legislation," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in remarks on the Senate floor as he introduced the bill. “It is time to tell the American people that help is on the way."

What we know: It requires only 51 votes. Vice President Kamala Harris may be needed to break a tie. 

After they clear this procedural vote, then GOP Sen. Ron Johnson is expected to force a full reading of the bill.

2:43 p.m. ET, March 4, 2021

Democrats are aiming to extend these pandemic unemployment benefits in the relief bill 

From CNN's Tami Luhby and Katie Lobosco

An estimated 11.4 million workers will lose their unemployment benefits between mid-March and mid-April unless Congress passes its next coronavirus relief package quickly, a recent study by The Century Foundation found.

Some senators were looking to make some changes to the House bill, including reducing the federal boost to unemployment benefits to $300 a week and extending the duration of pandemic jobless programs by another month. But these efforts have not progressed.

The House bill calls for extending two key pandemic unemployment programs through August 29. It would also increase the federal weekly boost to $400, from the current $300, and continue it for the same time period.

It would lengthen the duration of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program to up to 74 weeks, from 50 weeks, and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program to 48 weeks, from 24 weeks.

The former provides benefits to freelancers, gig workers, independent contractors and certain people affected by the pandemic, while the latter increases the duration of payments for those in the traditional state unemployment system.

The President's plan had called for continuing the benefits through the end of September.

Out-of-work Americans will start running out of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits in mid-March, when provisions in December's $900 billion relief package begin phasing out.

The $300 enhancement also ends in mid-March.

Read more about what we know about the Senate stimulus bill here.