Has the Senate Passed the Stimulus Bill? Here's Where We're At

The Senate is still debating the $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package following long delays on Friday that resulted in Senators finishing-up well after midnight.

The American Rescue Plan was passed by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives last week, but still needs the approval of the Senate in order to become law. The package contains a number of measures, including $1,400 checks for millions of Americans.

Democrats are using the budget reconciliation process, which means the stimulus plan can pass with a simple majority in the evenly divided Senate, to expedite the passing of the bill. However, this doesn't mean the bill is having an easy time.

The process of passing the stimulus package in the Senate began on Thursday.

The Senate, which is currently divided 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, was split on whether to debate the bill, before Vice President Kamala Harris used her tie-breaking vote to end the deadlock.

Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) then successfully forced the clerk to read the entire 628-page bill aloud. It took almost 11 hours.

On Friday, the Senate began the procedure known as a vote-a-rama—a rapid fire procedure in which senators can introduce amendments.

Those amendments have to be approved or rejected by a simple majority in the chamber.

If enough senators can't agree a position on an amendment, the vote-a-rama cannot move on until the matter is settled.

That arose yesterday when Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) refused to vote in favor of an unemployment insurance benefit contained in the bill. The process was delayed by 12 hours before Democrats agreed a compromise amendment that lowered unemployment benefits to $300 per week and extended them until September.

Then a record-breaking delay. Senator Bernie Sanders' (I-VT) amendment to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour was defeated, however the vote was officially left open for almost 12 hours. The reason? To give Democrats time to convince Manchin to support the revised unemployment benefits being proposed.

The vote-a-rama moved on at around 11 p.m., with the vote on the Sanders amendment becoming the longest Senate vote in modern history, according to CBS News.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made a motion shortly before midnight to adjourn until Saturday. But things did not pause there.

It was defeated. The compromise unemployment amendment was finally passed around 1 a.m.

The vote-a-rama will continue on Saturday with more amendments expected and no certainty about how long it will take. Republicans are strongly opposed to the package and some have suggested they will make the process as long and difficult as possible.

The Sun Rises Over the US Capitol
The sun rises over the US Capitol on December 28, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump signed the Relief Bill and government funding bill into law Sunday night, averting a government shutdown. The Senate began the process of voting for the American Rescue Plan on Friday. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images