WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR/AP) — On Friday, the Senate started the debate on the $1.9-trillion COVID relief plan.
“The American Rescue Plan will be one of the largest anti-poverty bills in recent history,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.
Schumer says they will pass this bill, despite a lengthy process called a “vote-a-rama.”
“The Senate’s gonna take a lot of votes, but we are going to power through and finish this bill however long it takes,” Schumer said.
The first amendment was U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders’ (D-Vt.) proposed hike to the minimum wage.
“We can no longer tolerate millions of our workers being unable to feed their families because they are working for starvation wages,” Sander said.
Sanders says it is disgraceful that Congress has not increased the federal minimum wage since 2007.
“Millions of people are trying to get by on nine, 10, 11 bucks an hour,” Sanders said.
Though the number of Democrats opposing the proposal was a surprise, its defeat was not. Solid Republican opposition had guaranteed in advance that proponents would fall well short of the 60 votes needed to win.
The proposal would boost the federal minimum wage to $15 hourly by 2025, up from its current $7.25.
Lawmakers said West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin had abandoned the Democratic jobless benefits plan and was instead backing a less generous Republican version.
Manchin is probably the chamber’s most conservative Democratic, and a kingmaker in a 50-50 Senate that leaves his party without a vote to spare.
However, Republicans say there is already too much unnecessary spending in the American Rescue Plan, and shot the minimum wage hike down.
“This is an opportunity to spend money on things not related to COVID ’cause they have the power to do so,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said.
Graham says Democrats don’t care about wasting taxpayer dollars.
“It’s unfortunate, but it’s a choice my democratic colleagues made and we’re going to hold them to that choice,” Graham said.
Republicans say there are hundreds of amendments coming to the Senate floor during this vote-a-rama, as lawmakers aim to pass the legislation before March 14.