In a matter of hours (big caveat on how many hours exactly), the Senate is expected to pass President Biden’s first major legislative agenda item through its chamber.
The $1.9 trillion relief bill provides extended unemployment benefits to Americans out of work, billions in funding to bolster vaccine distribution, expands health care access of the unemployed and incentivizes some states that never expanded Medicaid to finally take that step. This bill is massive. It’s costly, and it’s likely the last installment in a series of stimulus packages that bolstered the American economy through the worst pandemic in a century.
Here's what you need to know about the process, and how things could unfold today:
What happened yesterday:
- The marathon effort to pass the $1.9 trillion legislation kicked off Thursday when senators voted to open debate on the bill, and in a sign of just how thin Democrats' majority is, Vice President Kamala Harris broke the tie advancing the bill.
- Republicans opposed to the legislation forced the 628-page bill to be read aloud. The reading lasted more than 10 hours and concluded a little past 2 a.m. ET.
What happens today:
- At 9 a.m. ET this morning, the Senate will reconvene and there will be three hours of debate evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats.
- At around 12 p.m. ET, the vote-a-rama is expected to begin. This series of votes will go and can go for hours and yes, even days. 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 process here. Expect that Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont who caucuses with Democrats, will get the first amendment, which we expect will be on raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. We expect that won't have the Democratic votes to pass.
The goal of Republicans in this vote-a-rama is two-fold:
- They want to force Democrats into taking tough political votes on issues related to immigration and energy.
- They also want to try and peel off a few moderate Democrats in areas they think might attract some bipartisan support.
President Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have made it a point repeatedly to the caucus that they’d prefer Democrats don’t vote “yes” on a single Republican amendment. We will see if that happens.
CNN's Clare Foran and Ted Barrett contributed reporting to this post.