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Senate approves budget for $1.9 trillion COVID relief package

Democrats agree to restrict $1,400 direct payments from going to the highest earners.

President Joe Biden's package relied on Vice President Kamala Harris to break a tie in the Senate.
Saul Loeb/Getty Images

After an overnight session, the Senate approved on Friday morning a budget resolution for President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus package by a vote of 51-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote. Hours later, the House passed the Senate-amended budget plan by a vote of 219-209. 

The budget resolution doesn't have the force of law but paves the way for Democrats to move forward on a subsequent COVID-19 relief bill that can bypass a filibuster in the Senate. It also potentially affects the timeline to send the third wave of stimulus checks out faster

Among the amendments that senators agreed to during a marathon legislative session were measures to block tax increases on small businesses and to create a fund that provides grants for restaurants impacted by the pandemic, according to The New York Times. There was also bipartisan support to restrict $1,400 direct payments in Biden's stimulus package from going to Americans with high incomes, though the amendment didn't specify what income level would be considered too high for a $1,400 stimulus check

Senators also agreed to a Republican proposal to prohibit minimum wage increases during the pandemic, according to the Times. This could signal trouble for part of Biden's stimulus package, which calls for raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025.

With the budget resolution passed in the House, committees will now use it as a blueprint to build Biden's bill, which is expected to come up for a vote later this month or in early March.

"Hopefully in a two-week period of time, we will send something over to the Senate," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said of a stimulus bill, during a meeting at the White House on Friday, according to The Washington Post. "We hope to be able to put vaccines in people's arms; money in people's pockets; children safely in schools; and workers in their jobs."