The Senate on Saturday voted to start wrapping up a roughly $1 trillion bipartisan package, clearing a key hurdle to finishing the bill.
Senators voted 67-27 to advance the bill. EighteenGOP senators voted with all Democrats to help get the legislation over the 60-vote hurdle.
Without an agreement, the bill will face another vote on Sunday to formally shut down debate and put the bill on a glide path to passage. If every Democrat continues to vote yes, that means they need to have 10 GOP senators in order to get over the final hurdle for the bill.
Saturday’s session comes after senators tried, but ultimately failed, to get a deal that would have let them wrap up the bill late Thursday night or early Friday morning. As part of the deal, senators were also trying to set up a marathon session to vote on up to 20 additional amendments making potential changes to the bill.
But first-term Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) blocked the agreement, saying that he couldn’t sign off when the Congressional Budget Office analysis detailing the costs of the bill had just come out on Thursday afternoon.
Instead, the Senate reconvened for a rare back-to-back Saturday session after the senators were also in town last weekend. Leadership indicated that they remain at an impasse over setting up votes on amendments.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has helped advance the bill so far, sounded positive about its merits on Saturday morning. But he noted that Republicans want more amendment votes before a final vote, which could drag out until Tuesday morning.
“There are many outstanding amendments that are important that would improve the legislation and deserve votes before the Senate is asked to vote on final passage of the bill,” McConnell said.
“The full Senate deserves its full chance to shape this important legislation,” he continued. “I hope senators can work together in a bipartisan way to get more amendments up.”
Senators are still haggling over a potential deal on amendments. Without an agreement, Republicans are expected to force the Senate to run out the clock for up to 60 hours before a final vote to pass the bill.
Republicans in particular want a vote on an amendment from Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) that would let states use some COVID-19 relief funds for infrastructure projects. Though senators said the White House had agreed to the deal, a GOP insider said on Saturday that the White House is “still trying to kill it behind the scenes.”
Asked how the talks were going, Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Republican senator, said, “I don’t think that they’re really going well.”
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) warned that the Senate will stay in session until it wraps up the bill.
“We can get this done the easy way or the hard way,” he said. “In either case, the Senate will stay in session until we finish our work. It’s up to my Republican colleagues how long it takes.”