U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Source: AP
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  • A long-awaited COVID-19 relief bill is close to passing in the U.S. after the Senate voted to begin debating the package
  • The US$1.9 trillion (around A$2.47 trillion) bill covers a myriad of measures, including stimulus cheques, healthcare subsidies and tax relief
  • The Democrat-controlled Senate could pass the bill this weekend, however, the process has been delayed by a Republican who wants the bill read in-full
  • The reading is expected to take up to 10 hours, before debates and votes on amendments for the package then take place
  • Republicans have vowed to stage a “vote-a-rama” once debating begins, as many within the party believe the bill is too costly

A long-awaited COVID-19 relief bill is close to passing in the U.S. after the Senate voted to begin debating the package.

The Democrat-controlled House passed the US$1.9 trillion (around A$2.47 trillion) bill, titled the “American Rescue Plan”, late last month.

The broad-ranging package covers a myriad of different coronavirus measures, including US$1400 (about A$1817) stimulus cheques, healthcare subsidies for low-income workers and state-based income tax relief.

The U.S. Senate, which is also Democrat-held, could pass the bill as soon as this weekend.

“The Senate is going to move forward with the bill. No matter how long it takes, the Senate is going to stay in session to finish the bill this week,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said.

Already though, the process of passing the package has been delayed by a Republican Senator who has voted to have the 628-page bill read in full.

 “American people deserve to know what’s in it,” Wisconsin Representative Ron Johnson explained after he made the move to delay debate.

The full-reading could take more than 10 hours, after which debates and votes on amendments for the package can begin. In a win for the Democrats though, the debate is capped at 20 hours.

But, regardless of the cap, Republicans have already signalled plans to unleash a “vote-a-rama” during this debate period, with over 800 amendments put forward during a recent budget debate.

The opposition party believes the bill is too expensive, with key Republican and Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell labelling it a “partisan spending spree.”

Regardless of how long the objections take, the Senate is still likely to pass the COVID-19 relief bill with its 51 to 50 majority. Once the bill has been voted on for the final time, it will head to U.S. President Joe Biden’s desk for signing.

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