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Senate revises deal on unemployment benefits in COVID-19 relief bill

March 6 (UPI) — The Senate reached a deal on unemployment benefits deal early Saturday to move President Joe Biden‘s COVID-19 relief bill forward after an hours-long delay.

The Senate approved the deal in a 50-49 vote shortly after 1 a.m. with all Democrats voting in favor.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a holdout, accepted the compromise amendment after an extended meeting with Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer. The deadlock came amid a so-called “vote-a-rama” on amendments to the $1.9 trillion legislation that resumed shortly before midnight Friday after a nearly 12-hour stalemate.

The compromise extends $300 per week unemployment insurance benefits through Sept. 6, and makes the first $10,200 of benefits non-taxable for households earning less than $150,000. It also extends tax rules regarding excess business loss limitations to 2026.

Manchin previously did not accept a deal between moderates and progressives within the Democratic Party that lowered weekly benefit from $400 to $300, but accepted the compromise amendment which changed income limit for non-taxable benefits and cut some time off the September end date. He also previously appeared to support a Republican proposal that would have extended unemployment only through June.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki welcomed the agreement.

“Most importantly, this agreement allows us to move forward on the urgently needed American Rescue Plan, with $1,400 relief checks, funding we need to finish the vaccine rollout, open our schools, help those suffering from the pandemic, and more,” she said.

Regardless of any delays over amendments, Democrats are expected to pass the overall legislation Saturday. The Senate is split 50-50, but Vice President Kamala Harris, as president of the chamber, could cast a tie-breaking vote.

The House passed its own version of the legislation last week, which included Biden’s called-for $400 weekly unemployment benefits as well as a minimum wage boost to $15. The two chambers will need to pass matching bills before it can be sent to Biden’s desk for a signature.

In addition to extended unemployment benefits, the American Rescue Plan includes $1,400 direct payments to Americans based on certain income requirements.

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