Senate Passes COVID Relief Bill

Over the weekend the U.S. Senate passed the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package backed by President Joe Biden on a partisan vote of 50-49, with all Republicans present voting against the measure. Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska was not present due to a family emergency. As a result, Senate Democrats did not need a tie-breaking vote to be cast by Vice President Kamala Harris.

The Senate made some modifications to an earlier version of the American Rescue Plan that had been passed by the House of Representatives, most notably omitting an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour that had been a controversial element in the House-passed bill. The House must now pass the bill with the Senate changes, which is expected this week. Democratic leaders want to get a final bill to Biden before March 14, the date when enhanced unemployment benefits expire.

The White House will next focus on the Build Back Better infrastructure and energy initiative touted during the presidential campaign, which will be unveiled during Biden’s first address to Congress. The White House has signaled this will take place after he signs the COVID relief bill into law.

Last week, House Democrats introduced the Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation's (CLEAN) Future Act, sweeping energy legislation designed to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, with elements affecting building construction and operations.