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Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Senate voted 50-49 on Saturday to approve President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief package.

Why it matters: COVID relief has been a central promise for Biden, and passing the sweeping package has been a major priority for the administration and congressional Democrats.

What's next: The House is expected to take up the Senate version of the bill next week before it is sent to Biden for his signature.

Context: The bill passed more than 24 hours after the Senate opened debate. Republicans forced dozens of votes overnight into Saturday on amendments in an effort to stall the process.

  • Democrats approved the package through the budget reconciliation process, meaning it did not require any Republican support to pass.
  • However, the reconciliation process also prevented Democrats from including a provision to increase the minimum wage to $15/hour in the legislation. The Senate parliamentarian ruled last month that the wage increase does not directly affect the federal government’s finances.

What they're saying: "I promised the American people that help is on the way. Today, I can say we've taken one more giant step forward in delivering on that promise," Biden said from the White House Saturday.

  • "This plan puts on a path to defeating this virus," the president said, adding that stimulus checks will likely begin going out later this month.
  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said just before final passage that the "bill will deliver more help to more people than anything the federal government has done in decades."
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called the bill "the most progressive" piece of legislation "in a generation," according to NBC News.

Highlights from the bill:

  • Expanded federal funding for COVID programs, including $46 billion for testing and tracing; $7.6 billion for pandemic response at community health centers; $5.2 billion to support research, development and manufacturing of vaccines, therapeutics and other medical products; and $7.7 billion to expand the public health care workforce.
  • $1,400 stimulus payments for most Americans.
  • $128.6 billion to help K-12 schools reopen.
  • $350 billion in state and local aid.
  • $25 billion in aid to restaurants and other food and drinking establishments.
  • $19 billion in emergency rental assistance.
  • $7.25 billion in funds for Paycheck Protection Program loans.
  • The bill also extending the enhanced unemployment insurance of $300 per week through Sept. 6.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with Biden's comments and clarify the Senate version of the bill extends enhanced unemployment insurance through Sept. 6.

Go deeper

Updated Mar 5, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Hours-long reading of 628-page COVID relief bill delays Senate debate

Sen. Ron Johnson. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Senate on Thursday voted 51-50 — with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie — to proceed to debate on President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package, likely setting up a final vote this weekend.

The state of play: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) forced Senate clerks to read the entire 628-page bill on the floor, which took nearly 11 hours and lasted until 2:04 a.m. on Friday. The Senate is set to return at 9 a.m. to debate the bill before considering amendments, which could drag into the weekend.

Updated 1 hour ago - Sports

Swimmer Chase Kalisz first American to win Olympics gold medal

Chase Kalisz of Team United States celebrates after winning the Men's 400m Individual Medley Final on day two of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

Swimmer Chase Kalisz became on Sunday the first Team USA Olympian to win gold at the Tokyo Games.

The big picture: The Rio 2016 silver medalist's winning time in the men's 400 meters Individual Medley Final was 4 minutes 9.42 seconds. His teammate Jay Litherland took silver .86 seconds later.

California's largest wildfire razes homes as 88 huge blazes burn in U.S.

Firefighters on the scene as dozens of homes burn during the Dixie Fire in the Indian Falls neighborhood of unincorporated Plumas County, California, on July 24. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

Flames from California's biggest wildfire were engulfing homes in the state's north overnight — one of 88 large blazes raging in the U.S.

Driving the news: The Dixie Fire, which erupted July 14 near the origin of the deadly 2018 Camp Fire in Butte County, was tearing through the community of Indian Falls in the neighboring Plumas County, per AP.