Senate Democrats agree on nearly $2 trillion dollar relief legislation

lawmakers spent more than 8 hours in discussions to come to an agreement on the bill

(ABC NEWS) –Senate Democrats have come to an agreement on unemployment benefits after initially hitting a snag early in the marathon voting session on the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief legislation. Democrat Joe Manchin had threatened to unravel an agreement on how to handle jobless benefits in the package, but after eight hours of discussions has agreed to a new proposal.

Democrats on Friday unveiled what they thought was an agreement on unemployment insurance, sponsored by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., that would cut the weekly jobless benefit from the $400 allotment in the House bill to $300, while allowing the benefit to continue through September rather than through August. The agreement also included the first $10,200 paid out through the unemployment program being untaxed.

But Manchin, who has been urging his colleagues and the White House to further target the bill, wasn’t sold on the Carper proposal.

The two sides finally agreed to extend the enhanced UI program through Sept. 6 at $300 per week. The House-passed bill was through Aug. 29.

“The President supports the compromise agreement, and is grateful to all the Senators who worked so hard to reach this outcome,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement, of President Joe Biden’s support. “It extends supplemental unemployment benefit into September, and helps the vast majority of unemployment insurance recipients avoid unanticipated tax bills. Most importantly, this agreement allows us to move forward on the urgently needed American Rescue Plan, with $1400 relief checks, funding we need to finish the vaccine rollout, open our schools, help those suffering from the pandemic, and more.”

Senate Minority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., told reporters prior to the agreement he believed Democrats were working behind the scenes to keep their members united on some amendments.

“I just think that the Democrats right now are in a bit of a quandary,” Thune said. “They’ve essentially stopped action on the floor so that they can try and persuade, I think, all their members to stay together on some of these votes. And I think they’re afraid that they that they could lose on Portman.”

The Senate is currently evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. To get Biden’s signature piece of legislation passed into law, Democrats cannot afford to lose Manchin, or any other member of their caucus, on the overall vote. And if Manchin votes with Republicans on reducing the unemployment benefit, it risks upending support from progressives on the overall bill.

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