Senate approves budget bill as Harris casts tie-breaker vote
The US Senate has approved a budget resolution which is a key step towards fast-track passage of Joe Biden’s 1.9 trillion dollar (£1.4 trillion) coronavirus relief plan, without support from Republicans.
Vice President Kamala Harris was in the chair to cast the tie-breaking vote, her first. Democrats in the chamber applauded after she announced the 51-50 vote at around 5.30am.
The early-morning action came after a gruelling all-night session where senators voted on amendments that could define the contours of the eventual Covid-19 aid bill.
The budget now returns to the House of Representatives, where it will have to be approved again due to the changes made by the Senate.
Final passage will unlock the next phase in drafting the virus relief bill, with the work divided among several congressional committees.
Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, called passage of the resolution the “first big step to putting our country back on the road to recovery”.
By moving on a fast track, the goal for Democrats is to have Covid relief approved by March, when extra unemployment assistance and other pandemic aid expires.
It is an aggressive timeline that will test the ability of the new administration and Congress to deliver.
Mr Biden, who has been meeting legislators in recent days to discuss the package, will talk later at the White House with the House committee chairs who will be assembling the bill under the budget process known as reconciliation.