Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., right, and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., make their way to the Senate floor after announcing a two-year deal on the budget earlier in the day on February 7, 2018.
Tom Williams | CQ Roll Call | Getty Images
The Senate passed a historic $2 trillion coronavirus relief package Wednesday night, as it tries to stem the destruction the pandemic has brought to American lives and wallets.
The chamber approved the bill in a unanimous 96-0 vote after days of furious negotiations, partisan sniping and raised tempers on the Senate floor. The bill now heads to the House, which will push to pass it by voice vote Friday morning as most representatives are out of Washington.
The 880-page legislation includes direct payments to individuals, stronger unemployment insurance, loans and grants to businesses and more health care resources for hospitals, states and municipalities. It includes requirements that insurance providers cover preventive services for the coronavirus disease COVID-19.
The Senate passed the plan to combat the outbreak as the crisis started to thin its ranks. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., did not vote after testing positive for COVID-19, and neither did GOP Sens. Mitt Romney and Mike Lee of Utah, both in isolation after contact with their colleague. Sen. John Thune, a South Dakota senator and second-ranking Republican, also missed the vote after feeling ill.
While the Senate took precautions Wednesday such as keeping votes open longer to reduce crowding, senators still huddled in groups and chatted.
Speaking before the chamber passed the bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the Senate would not return until April 20. However, he said lawmakers would be “nimble” as the evolving crisis could force further action to boost the American economy or health care system.
“If circumstances require the Senate to return for a vote sooner than April the 20th we will provide at least 24 hours of notice,” he said.
Before passing the bill, the Senate first rejected an amendment proposed by Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., to cap unemployment insurance at a recipient’s previous wages. It failed in a 48-48 vote.
Sasse and three of his GOP colleagues threatened to delay passage of the legislation if they could not get a vote on an amendment. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., then suggested he could hold up the bill’s approval if they did not back down from their opposition.
While the snag caused fears the bill would not pass, hitting U.S. stock indexes just before markets closed Wednesday, it ultimately did not stop the Senate from approving the proposal.
This story is developing. Please check back for updates.