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Senate begins vote on $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill

Yahoo Finance's Jessica Smith breaks down the latest in Washington, D.C. as the U.S. Senate meets to vote on President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill.

Video Transcript

AKIKO FUJITA: The debate over that $1.9 trillion economic relief bill officially underway in the Senate. And it is expected to stretch well into the weekend. Jessica Smith tracking all the developments for us from Washington this morning. Jess?

JESSICA SMITH: Yeah, Akiko, vote-a-rama is underway. What this is is a process where senators can offer amendments to the COVID relief package. And they have to vote on each one. So you'll likely see a lot of Republicans putting forward amendments that could put Democrats in a tough political spot.

But right now what they're voting on is a minimum wage increase. They are voting to increase the minimum wage to $15 and include an amendment to do that. But that is not going to go through. Senator Bernie Sanders put this forward. But so far, at last check, two Democrats have voted against that. That's Senator Manchin and Senator Tester. But this is just the process that we're going to be watching play out over the next few days.

And we did learn about some changes that Senate Democrats are going to try and push. It looks like there is an agreement to do this. And that is on the enhanced unemployment benefits. The House bill had those enhanced benefits at $400 a week lasting through the end of August. Now it looks like the Senate is going to change that to $300 a week, but it's going to extend those benefits through the end of September. So an extra month, but you have a lower payment.

Another change that's going to be a big deal is making the first $10,200 in unemployment benefits from 2020 tax-free. They're planning to waive the federal income tax on those benefits. That's something that several lawmakers have been pushing for throughout this process. But up until now, it wasn't talked about actually being included in the bill. So that's a pretty big development,

We're also seeing senators point to the jobs report from this morning as evidence either for or against this relief package. We heard leadership making their cases about it earlier this morning on the Senate floor. Let's watch.

MITCH MCCONNELL: Our country is already set for a roaring recovery. We are already on track to bounce back from this crisis. That's not because of this bill. It's because of our work last year.

CHUCK SCHUMER: Sometimes the macro statistics get in the way, because the top end is doing very well, the top 10% or 25%. But so many other people are struggling. And if you just look at a big number, you say, oh, everything's getting a little better. It's not for the lower half of America. It's not.

JESSICA SMITH: So we expect the Senate to continue voting on amendments over the next-- possibly next couple of days. They expect to pass the bill this weekend and send it to the House, and then the House will have to take up any changes that the Senate makes. Zack and Akiko?

ZACK GUZMAN: All right, Jessica Smith for us there in Washington on that vote-a-rama coverage. Appreciate that.