WASHINGTON – The Senate on Saturday scaled back the weekly federal unemployment benefit in President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus bill.
The agreement extends the federal unemployment benefit at $300 per week through the end of August, down from a $400 extension in the original bill.
The amendment was proposed by Senate Finance Chair, Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and was agreed to 50-49, coming after nearly 12 hours of negotiations on the provision.
The Senate also passed a Republican proposal to the unemployment benefit Saturday morning. Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman’s amendment would have extended the $300 benefit through mid-July – a tweak anathema to progressives, who had pushed for more generous unemployment benefits.
That also passed 50-49, but was superseded by the amendment agreed to by Democrats.
Republicans lost a vote as Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska left for his home state Friday evening.
Under the new deal, the first $10,200 of unemployment benefits would be non-taxable for households with incomes under $150,000.
Much of the impasse over the amendment focused on Sen. Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia who expressed interest in plans from Republicans and Democrats.
In a Senate split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, opposition from Manchin would have put both sides' amendments in jeopardy.
Manchin ended up voting in favor of both the Wyden and Portman amendments.
The Senate is now pressing forward on the stimulus bill, which Democrats want to make law by next week. Congress faces a countdown to get the stimulus package to Biden by mid-March, when Americans are set to lose the current weekly federal unemployment boost.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki released a statement Friday night saying Biden "supports the compromise agreement, and is grateful to all the Senators who worked so hard to reach this outcome."
The bill with a change to unemployment benefits could face uncertainty if the bill is passed in the Senate and sent back to the House. Since the Senate made changes, the bill must pass the House again before Biden can sign it.
House Democrats have a slim majority in the House, and cannot afford to lose more than a handful of votes to pass the bill. Two Democrats voted against the bill the first time it passed the House, though progressives united around the bill.
But, more progressive Democrats' are expressing frustration with the changes.
Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-N.J., said she was wondering whether she could still support the bill with the Senate’s changes.
“What are we doing here? I'm frankly disgusted with some of my colleagues and question whether I can support this bill,” she said in a tweet.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID stimulus: Senate OKs $300 unemployment extension in Biden bill