March 5, 2021 Covid-19 stimulus bill updates

By Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 9:02 a.m. ET, March 6, 2021
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12:43 p.m. ET, March 5, 2021

Sanders vows to keep fighting to raise minimum wage after amendment fails on Senate floor 

From CNN's Annie Grayer 

US Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks to the media outside the Senate chamber on Thursday.
US Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks to the media outside the Senate chamber on Thursday. Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont who caucuses with Democrats, told reporters that progressives were not going to give up the fight on raising the minimum wage after it just failed in the Senate.

“Federal minimum wage, which has not been raised since 2007 by Congress is a starvation wage. $7.25 an hour. If anybody thinks that we’re giving up on this issue, they are sorely mistaken," Sanders said.

"We are going to, if we have to vote on it time and time again, we will, and we’re going to succeed. The American people understand that we cannot continue to have millions of people working for starvation wages. The American people want to raise the minimum wage to a living wage, $15 an hour, and we’re going to accomplish that,” he continued.

When asked if he was surprised by the number of Democrats who voted against it, Sanders said, “no, we knew exactly what was happening.”

12:59 p.m. ET, March 5, 2021

These are the 8 Democratic senators who voted against amendment to raise minimum wage

From CNN's Kristin Wilson and Ted Barrett 

CNN
CNN

These are the eight Democratic senators who voted "no" on Sen. Bernie Sanders' amendment to increase the minimum wage to $15:

  1. Sen. Tester
  2. Sen. Manchin
  3. Sen. Sinema
  4. Sen. King (Independent who caucuses with Democrats)
  5. Sen. Shaheen
  6. Sen. Hassan
  7. Sen. Carper
  8. Sen. Coons

All senators appear to have voted on the amendment, and members who are talking with each other on the Senate floor seem to be working out how the rest of the amendment process is going to unfold.

We are waiting for the gavel to drop with the final count.

Lauren Fox reports:

12:09 p.m. ET, March 5, 2021

This is how the White House reacted to the Senate unemployment insurance agreement

From CNN's Phil Mattingly and Kevin Liptak

Asked about the Senate Democrats' unemployment insurance agreement, a senior administration official said the administration is “definitely good with it,” and pointed out making the first $10,200 in benefits no longer being taxable was “something the administration had been trying to figure out how to address.” 

While Senate Democrats and staff have been the lead on all of the late negotiations, White House legislative and policy officials have been in touch in real time, the official said, and have given their sign off to every agreement up to this point, the official said.  

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has also reacted on Twitter, saying:

"The President believes it is critical to extend expanded unemployment benefits through the end of September to help Americans who are struggling, as the President proposed in the American Rescue Plan. The compromise amendment achieves that while helping to address the surprise tax bills that many are facing by eliminating the first $10,200 of UI benefits from taxation for 2020. Combined, this amendment would provide more relief to the unemployed than the current legislation." 

See her tweet:

Remember: Earlier today in a last-minute change, Senate Democrats said they reached an agreement to extend unemployment benefits through September, but change the benefits to $300 a week instead of $400 a week.

The amendment will be introduced by Sen. Tom Carper, a Democrat from Delaware.

The agreement also creates new tax benefits for people who received Unemployment Insurance (UI) by making the first $10,200 in those benefits not taxable. The intent is to make sure people who received UI are not hit with taxes on the benefit, which could come as a surprise.

You can read more about that here.

12:17 p.m. ET, March 5, 2021

GOP senator who forced reading of entire relief bill says he has "a hundred" amendments

From CNN's Kristin Wilson

Greg Nash/Pool/Getty Images
Greg Nash/Pool/Getty Images

GOP Sen. Ron Johnson, who forced the reading of the entire 628-page Covid-19 relief bill on the Senate floor yesterday into this morning, says he knew there was a time agreement for three hours of debate.

“I knew that last night,” he said. “I stuck around to the very end to make sure they didn’t try to pull a fast one on us.

He said he still plans to offer up amendments to the bill, saying “we got a hundred in the hopper” and that he has “really good” Republican support for it.

“We should have a full debate on this,” he said. “In 1993, we had a supplemental bill for 19 billion dollars. This is a hundred times larger than that. WE spent 12 days on that. Eventually whittled is down to 4 billion dollars and passed it unanimously. That’s the best – process we have on a massive $1.9 trillion, bill don’t you think?

 

11:59 a.m. ET, March 5, 2021

Democratic senator opposes amendment to boost minimum wage, but calls for "open debate" on raising it

From CNN's Alex Rogers

After voting against Sen. Bernie Sanders’ amendment to increase the minimum wage to $15, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat from Arizona, said the Senate “should hold an open debate and amendment process on raising the minimum wage, separate from the COVID-focused reconciliation bill.”

More on this effort: The Senate parliamentarian had ruled against including the increase in the minimum wage in the chamber's Covid relief bill, saying the increase did not meet a strict set of guidelines needed to move forward in the Senate's reconciliation process

Sanders introduced an amendment this morning to waive a budget point of order and advance the minimum wage effort. We expect it won't have enough Democratic votes to pass.

Read more about the debate over the $15 minimum wage here.

11:54 a.m. ET, March 5, 2021

Senate Finance Chairman says he kept the White House informed on jobless benefit changes 

From CNN's Manu Raju

Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, told CNN that the last-minute changes in jobless benefits came after extensive discussions with key Democratic stakeholders, including the White House, Democratic leadership and Sen. Bernie Sanders.

“They knew at every step of the way what we were doing,” he said of the White House. 

Some more context: Senate Democrats have reached an agreement to extend unemployment benefits through September, but change the benefits to $300 a week instead of $400 a week.

The amendment will be introduced by Sen. Tom Carper, a Democrat from Delaware.

The agreement also creates new tax benefits for people who received Unemployment Insurance (UI) by making the first $10,200 in those benefits not taxable. The intent is to make sure people who received UI are not hit with taxes on the benefit, which could come as a surprise.

11:33 a.m. ET, March 5, 2021

Key conservative Democratic senator doesn’t rule out backing amendments to change the bill

From CNN's Manu Raju

Sen. Joe Manchin, one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate caucus, said he is open to more amendments to change the bill.

“I like good amendments,” he told CNN. He didn’t specify what he meant by “good.”

He also didn’t answer directly when asked if the positive jobs report means that the bill should be cut down.

“That helps a lot,” he said of the jobs report as he walked into the chamber.

Manchin’s position is important because if he were to join with 50 Republicans on an amendment, it could change the bill.

“I don’t know,” GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski said when asked if she thought the jobs report meant the bill should be pared back. “The jobs report was important.”

11:43 a.m. ET, March 5, 2021

The Senate has begun marathon voting session on amendments

From CNN's Manu Raju and Lauren Fox

Senate TV
Senate TV

The Senate is voting on the first amendment to the Covid-19 relief bill: an effort to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour.

This effort to waive a budget point of order and advance the minimum wage is being pushed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont who caucuses with Democrats. We expect that won't have the Democratic votes to pass.

This will be the first amendment of a process known as a "vote-a-rama." This is a Senate tradition that the minority party uses to put members of the majority on the record on controversial issues in an effort to make changes to a bill that they oppose.

This series of votes can and will go for hours. The question is how much stamina members have, how long can they stand this process and how ready they are to jet off to begin their weekends.

You can read more about the "vote-a-rama" process here.

CNN's Clare Foran and Ted Barrett contributed reporting to this post.

10:53 a.m. ET, March 5, 2021

Senate Democrats agree to lower unemployment benefit and extend it through September

From CNN's Lauren Fox and the Hill team

In a last-minute change, the Senate Democrats have reached an agreement to extend unemployment benefits through September, but change the benefits to $300 a week instead of $400 a week.

The amendment will be introduced by Sen. Tom Carper, a Democrat from Delaware.

The agreement also creates new tax benefits for people who received Unemployment Insurance (UI) by making the first $10,200 in those benefits not taxable. The intent is to make sure people who received UI are not hit with taxes on the benefit, which could come as a surprise.

The amendment will also include an extension of tax rules regarding excess business loss limitations for one more year.

These provisions are new and different than the House bill, which includes $400 a week of UI benefits through August.