Live stimulus updates: Weary senators continue wrangling over COVID-19 relief package as debate approaches 20th straight hour

WASHINGTON – The Senate continues to wrangle over the fate of a massive new COVID-19 stimulus package that includes direct $1,400 payments after a lengthy debate that began Friday and stretched into early Saturday.

Bleary-eyed senators are approaching their 20th straight hour of negotiating passage of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan in the evenly divided Senate. Republicans are continuing to propose amendments to the bill in an effort to delay passage though none of them are winning enough votes to pass.

The Senate narrowly amended the bill to include a $300 weekly federal unemployment benefit through August after West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin objected to a provision in the House-passed measure which included a benefit of $400 per week.

$20 bills fanned out behind the U.S. Capitol building.

An effort to reinsert a provision raising the federal hourly minimum wage to $15 failed Friday when eight Democratic caucus members joined all Senate Republicans in voting against Vermont independent Bernie Sanders’ proposal. The provision was included in the bill the House passed but was stripped by the Senate parliamentarian who ruled it was not germane to the relief bill and could not be included.

Democrats cannot afford a single defection in the face of united Republican opposition to the bill but they also have to walk a delicate tightrope. If Democrats cut back too much in the Senate to secure the vote of moderates in their party, they risk losing the progressive House votes that would be needed to send the final bill to Biden for his signature.

– Ledyard King and William Cummings

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