Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday he is confident he has enough votes in the Senate to pass the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill and that he plans to move forward on the bill as soon as Wednesday.
“We want to get the biggest, strongest, boldest bill that can pass. And that’s what we are working to do,” Schumer, D-New York, told reporters at a Tuesday press conference. “We’ll have the votes we need to pass the bill.”
Schumer will need all 50 Democrats voting for the bill, assuming all 50 Republicans vote against it. With the Senate evenly divided, Vice President Kamala Harris would cast the tie-breaking vote.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, chastised Democrats in a speech from the Senate floor on Tuesday, saying that by using the budget reconciliation process they had chosen a “completely partisan route” to get the COVID-19 pandemic relief package passed.
“This is a wildly expensive proposal largely unrelated to the problem,” McConnell said. “We think this package should have been negotiated on a bipartisan basis. … Instead, the new administration made a conscious decision to jam us.”
Budget reconciliation allows the measure to pass with a simple majority vote, instead of the 60 votes required for most major legislation to pass.
President Joe Biden made a call to Senate Democrats during a lunchtime meeting Tuesday, urging them to stay united behind the bill, according to two Democrats who spoke to The Washington Post on the condition of anonymity to recount the private comments.
The nearly $2 trillion bill includes $1,400 direct payments to millions of Americans, $400 weekly federal unemployment benefits through the end of August, billions for COVID-19 vaccines, money to reopen schools and several other programs.
Schumer indicated that the bill could be taken up on Wednesday, starting a process that would likely see a final vote by the end of the week.
Democrats want to pass the legislation before March 14, the day when emergency unemployment benefits will expire for millions of Americans.
The House passed the bill on Saturday.
The Senate could take a procedural vote on Wednesday that would open debate on the bill. Under the rules of the budget reconciliation process, once the bill is taken up, debate will be limited to 20 hours. Following the debate, a process called a “vote-a-rama” would begin. During the vote-a-rama, the Senate votes on a series of amendments to the bill.
It requires a simple majority for amendments to pass.
The vote on the legislation could come at the end of the week with the bill then being sent back to the House for final passage.
It would have to go back to the House to reconcile the fact that the House bill has a provision to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. That provision was ruled inconsistent with the rules for reconciliation in the Senate, so the bill cannot include a minimum wage hike unless the Senate parliamentarian is overruled by Vice President Harris.
The White House has said they do not intend to challenge the parliamentarian’s ruling.