Divided Senate Passes Biden’s Pandemic Aid Plan – The New York Times

The legislation remains broadly popular across the country, with state and local officials in both parties joining the chorus of industry groups, advocacy groups and voters calling for the federal government to provide additional relief. But congressional Republicans rallied against the plan, arguing that it was far more than what was needed and could overheat the economy. They cited a steady increase in vaccinations and more than $4 trillion allocated over the last year.

“The Senate has never spent $2 trillion in a more haphazard way or through a less rigorous process,” Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, said Saturday morning as he urged his colleagues to vote against the bill.

They charged that in passing the pandemic relief package without their support or input, Mr. Biden had already failed to adhere to the promises of unity that carried him through the 2020 election and served as a cornerstone of his inaugural address. But Democrats scoffed at the complaints, noting that Republicans had not shown a willingness to negotiate a compromise that met the challenges the country faced.

Newly empowered in the Senate, Democrats instead chose to bypass Republican opposition and the risk of a filibuster — which takes 60 votes to break — and pass the legislation using a fast-track process known as reconciliation, which only requires a majority. But the strict budgetary rules governing the process forced Democrats to curtail their ambitions for the legislation, as did the competing factions of moderate and liberal lawmakers unafraid to wield their influence given the slim margins of control.

Even with changes, the bill remained more than than double the size of the roughly $800 billion stimulus package that Congress approved in 2009, when Mr. Biden was vice president, to counter the toll of the Great Recession. Top Democrats, many of whom voted to pass that bill and recalled winnowing down the package to appease Republicans, who still opposed it almost unanimously, said they were determined not to make the same mistake again.

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