The Senate passed Biden's $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill

By Melissa Mahtani and Adrienne Vogt, CNN

Updated 4:16 p.m. ET, March 6, 2021
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4:01 p.m. ET, March 6, 2021

The Senate just passed a $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill. Here's what it could mean for you.

From CNN's Tami Luhby and Katie Lobosco

Source: Senate TV
Source: Senate TV

The $1.9 trillion coronavirus package passed by the Senate contains a wide range of proposals to help Americans still struggling with the economic fallout of the pandemic.

The legislation differs in at least three major ways from the bill that passed the House of Representatives last week. The final Senate package will have to be approved again by the House before it can be sent to President Biden for his signature.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the House will vote Monday night on the rule laying out terms for the bill’s consideration, and the House will vote on Tuesday on the Senate-passed version of the bill.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he has "no doubt” Biden will sign the American Rescue Plan before the March 14 deadline.

Here's how Americans could benefit from the Senate bill:

  • If your family makes less than $160,000 a year: The Senate bill would provide direct payments worth up to $1,400 per person to families earning less than $160,000 a year and individuals earning less than $80,000 a year. The payments will phase out faster than they would have under the House version of the bill, which set the income caps at $200,000 for couples and $100,000 for individuals. That means that not everyone who was eligible for a check earlier will receive one now — but for those who do qualify, the new payments will top up the $600 checks approved in December, bringing recipients to a total of $2,000 apiece.
  • If you are unemployed: The jobless would receive a $300 weekly federal boost to unemployment benefits and would get those payments through September, under a last-minute change in the Senate. The deal also calls for extending two key pandemic jobless benefits programs for the same period and making the first $10,200 of unemployment payments tax-free.
  • This is a significant difference from the House bill, which would provide a $400 weekly enhancement through August 29 and continue the two pandemic programs for the same period. The House bill does not contain the tax provision.
  • If you are hungry: Under both the Senate and House bills, food stamp recipients would see a 15% increase in benefits continue through September, instead of having it expire at the end of June. And families whose children's schools are closed may be able to receive Pandemic-EBT benefits through the summer if their state opts to continue it. 
  • If you're behind on your rent or mortgage: Both bills would send roughly $20 billion to state and local governments to help low-income households cover back rent, rent assistance and utility bills.
  • If you have children: Most families with minor children could claim a larger child tax credit for 2021, under a provision contained in both the Senate and House bills. Qualifying families could receive a child tax credit of $3,600 for each child under 6 and $3,000 for each one under age 18, up from the current credit of up to $2,000 per child under age 17.
  • If you own a small business: The bills would provide $15 billion to the Emergency Injury Disaster Loan program, which provides long-term, low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration. Severely impacted small businesses with fewer than 10 workers will be given priority for some of the money.
  • If you're sick: If you're sick, quarantining or caring for an ill loved one or a child whose school is closed, the bills may provide your employer an incentive to offer paid sick and family leave. Unlike Biden's original proposal, the House and Senate bills would not require employers to offer the benefit. But they do continue to provide tax credits to employers who voluntarily choose to offer the benefit through October 1.
  • If you need health insurance: More Americans could qualify for heftier federal premium subsidies for Affordable Care Act policies for two years, under both the Senate and House versions of the plan.

Who is out of luck? Workers being paid at or just above the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour will not see a boost in pay. The Senate parliamentarian ruled in late February that increasing the hourly threshold to $15 does not meet a strict set of guidelines needed to move forward in the reconciliation process, which would allow Senate Democrats to pass the relief bill with a simple majority and no Republican votes.

3:14 p.m. ET, March 6, 2021

Obama congratulates Biden on Senate passage of Covid-19 relief bill 

Former President Barack Obama congratulated President Biden on the successful passage of the Covid-19 relief bill through the Senate, calling it “a reminder of why it’s so important to vote.” 

“Elections matter — and we’re seeing why,” Obama said in a series of tweets following the Senate vote to approve the $1.9 trillion bill.

2:44 p.m. ET, March 6, 2021

Biden says "essence" of Covid-19 relief bill is the same despite compromises

From CNN's DJ Judd


Following remarks from the State Dining room on the recently passed $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package, President Biden responded to the idea that progressives may be frustrated with compromises in the bill that led to its passage.

“The end result is essentially about the same, and so I don’t think any of the compromises have in any way fundamentally altered the essence of what I put in the bill in the first place,” Biden told reporters.

“They’re not frustrated,” Biden said Saturday. “Bernie Sanders said this is the most progressive bill he’s ever seen passed in history, since he’s been there, and the compromises were all compromises that didn’t affect the substance and the essence of what the bill is.”

In a tweet Saturday, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders wrote, “The American Rescue Plan is the most significant piece of legislation to benefit working people in the modern history of this country.”

2:34 p.m. ET, March 6, 2021

Biden calls Senate passage of bill a "giant step forward" on getting relief to Americans

President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Vice President Kamala Harris in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, March 5, in Washington, DC.
President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Vice President Kamala Harris in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, March 5, in Washington, DC. Al Drago/Pool/Getty Images

President Biden said the Senate passing his $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill is a "giant step forward" to providing relief to Americans amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“When we took office 45 days ago, I promised the American people help was on the way. Today I can say we've taken one more giant step forward on delivering on that promise — that help is on the way,” Biden said. 

He thanked Vice President Kamala Harris and senators "who worked so hard to reach a compromise."

"It obviously wasn't easy. It wasn't always pretty. But it was so desperately needed, urgently needed," he said.

Biden thanked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in particular for his leadership.

"I've never seen anyone work as skillfully, as ably, as patiently, with determination to deliver such a consequential piece of legislation," Biden said.

"When the country needed you most, you led, Chuck, and you delivered. Neither I nor the country will ever forget that," Biden added.

Biden promised that the package will help speed up vaccine manufacturing and distribution.

"Everything in this package is designed to relieve the suffering and to meet the most urgent needs of the nation and put us in a better position to prevail — starting with beating this virus and vaccinating the country," he said. "The resources in this plan will be used to expand and speed up manufacturing and distribution of vaccines so we can get every single American vaccinated sooner than later, I believe we'll have enough by the end of, by the middle of May to vaccinate. It's going to take longer to get it in their arms but that's how much vaccine we'll have." 

Biden also pledged that many households will see stimulus checks this month — and took a shot at his predecessor Donald Trump in his remarks.

"When I was elected, I said we were going to get the government out of the business of battling on Twitter and back in the business of delivering for the American people, of making a difference in their lives, giving everyone a chance — a fighting chance — of showing the American people that their government can work for them, and passing the American Rescue Plan will do that," Biden added.

2:18 p.m. ET, March 6, 2021

Schumer has "no doubt" Biden will sign relief bill before March 14 deadline

From CNN's Nicky Robertson, Ted Barrett, Manu Raju and Sarah Fortinsky

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer speaks to the press at the Capitol on March 6, in Washington, DC.
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer speaks to the press at the Capitol on March 6, in Washington, DC.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said “I have no doubt” President Joe Biden will sign the American Rescue Plan before the March 14 deadline.

He made the comments at a news conference right after the Senate passed the President's Covid-19 relief bill.

"Nobody said passing one of the largest — perhaps the most significant — bill to help the poor and working people in decades was going to be easy, particularly with 50 votes. But it is done," Schumer said.

Schumer praised his caucus, saying "I love each one of them."

The bill will now go back to the House, where a separate vote will need to be passed before Biden can sign the bill.

Next week, the Senate will focus on continuing to confirm Biden’s cabinet nominees, including Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland and Housing and Urban Development Secretary nominee Marcia Fudge, Schumer said.

1:59 p.m. ET, March 6, 2021

Pelosi lauds passage of Covid-19 relief bill in Senate

From CNN's Annie Grayer 

Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi arrives at a weekly news conference on March 4, in Washington. 
Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi arrives at a weekly news conference on March 4, in Washington.  Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a statement on the Senate passage of President Biden's $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill, calling it "a beacon of hope."

“Today is a day of great progress and promise for the American people, as the Democratic Senate has passed President Biden’s American Rescue Plan to save lives and livelihoods. The House now hopes to have a bipartisan vote on this life-saving legislation and urges Republicans to join us in recognition of the devastating reality of this vicious virus and economic crisis and of the need for decisive action."

Pelosi said the bill is a "tremendous step forward" in providing help to families and small businesses hurting during the coronavirus pandemic.

“It honors our heroes – our health care workers, food, sanitation and transportation workers, and teachers – who are on the frontlines on the state and local level. It crushes the virus with the equitable and immediate distribution of the vaccine. And it puts our children safely back in school and puts workers back on the job. Overall, this coronavirus-centric legislation puts nearly a trillion dollars in the pockets of America’s families."

 “The American Rescue Plan is a beacon of hope for America’s families and a sign that, as President Biden has promised: Help Is On The Way,” she added.

Remember: The Senate bill now heads to the House of Representatives for a separate vote before President Biden can sign it into law.

1:45 p.m. ET, March 6, 2021

Passing Covid-19 bill was "best thing we've done in the Senate in my career," Ohio Democrat says

Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Ohio, said passing the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill was "the best thing we've done in the Senate in my career." 

The American people "wanted to see results and we did it today, we did it over the last couple months. And it's the best thing, the best thing we've done in the Senate in my career," he told CNN's Fredricka Whitfield.

Brown dismissed the amendments proposed by Republicans overnight.

GOP lawmakers introduced "all the kind of hot-button issues... the buttons they always push when they don't have a good argument," he said. "And we were doing things that positively affect people's lives. They were trying to change the subject. They lost."

Brown predicted that the American people will reap the benefits of today's vote.

"Voters in the summer of 2021, voters are going to say, you know, I voted for Joe Biden, and my life got better because President Biden and Democrats in the House and Senate delivered my unemployment check, delivered help for my small business, helped to open up our schools, kept my apartment, kept me from being evicted in the middle of the pandemic. All those things we were able to do, and it was because we stuck together and listened to what the public wanted," he said.

1:29 p.m. ET, March 6, 2021

Republican whip slams Schumer's handling of past 24 hours

From CNN's Lauren Fox 

Senate Minority Whip Sen. John Thune speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on March 5 in Washington.
Senate Minority Whip Sen. John Thune speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on March 5 in Washington. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Sen. John Thune, the Republican whip, slammed Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s handling of the last 24 hours, telling reporters that Schumer had not “crushed it.” 

Thune said “this last 24 hours was really chaotic, and if this was a first big test, I don’t think he probably crushed it.” 

“They didn’t handle it well. They didn’t manage it well. They didn’t know where their people were, and it created an awful lot of angst and delay,” Thune said. 

Thune acknowledged, however, how hard it can be for a leadership when they have a narrow majority. 

“Every power dynamic is different… but in a situation in the Senate with narrow margins, every man is a king and every woman is a queen, you really have a lot of leverage and influence. And people sometimes use it differently, and as a leader it is hard to manage that because there are a lot of conflicting – at times – objectives and strategies and tactics and everything else. You do the best you can… but yesterday was pretty extraordinary. We will see what comes next, but I hope it is a more orderly process," Thune said.

Thune also said that Republicans have learned a lot as well about the immense pressure moderate Democrats, who might be willing to work with Republicans, have faced to fall in line. 

“We learned a lot too on dealing with their side and dealing with members on their side who suggested at times they might be inclined to be with us on some things,” he said.

“When the pressure came, that broke that desire and any momentum there might have been toward a bipartisan solution. It was pretty clear that there was an enormous amount of pressure put on those two both here and then from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue and from the House. The House leaders essentially said we aren’t going to pass the bill if you change it. “

Thune said leadership was aware that GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski was going to vote with the party, despite the fact she had spent a lot of time trying to get some provisions included in the bill. 

“She was having discussions with them on some things that are important to her state, but I kind of always believed in the end she would end up where she did, but like I said, every person’s vote is their vote, and we don’t pressure people. But I am glad she found her way to be with the team because I think it is a very strong message that this was – as we suggested all along – a very partisan process and a product that reflects a rushed, hurried attempt to try to get $2 trillion out the door to satisfy one of the President’s campaign promises,” he added.

1:23 p.m. ET, March 6, 2021

Democratic senator on Covid-19 relief bill: "It should be complicated"

Sen. Tina Smith.
Sen. Tina Smith. Source: CNN

Minnesota Democratic Sen. Tina Smith called President Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus bill "so important" after it passed in the Senate.

"The sense of making a real difference for working families in this country was just so palpable on the Senate floor — and the difference that this is going to make for reopening our schools safely, for lifting children out of poverty, for helping families directly recover from this Covid pandemic — is just going to be so important," Smith told CNN's Fredricka Whitfield.

Smith said she worked for about 30 hours straight. She arrived to the Senate at about 9 a.m. Friday morning since she was presiding in the morning.

Despite the long day, Smith said senators were confident that they could pass the bill.

"It is a complicated thing. It should be complicated to put together a package of this scale and of this size but we hung together, we have done something I think that's really important."

Smith called Sen. Joe Manchin "a fighter" after his opposition on Friday to a Democratic deal boosting unemployment benefits stalled the Senate process.

"He is a fighter for West Virginia. Just as we all are in the caucus. We all fought really hard to get pieces into this package that were important to us," she said.