That’s the number of U.S. senators—the entire Democratic caucus—it took to approve a voting procedure that would enable passage of another COVID-19 relief package without a single Republican vote.
Because a 50-50 tie vote was broken by Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris early Friday, the Senate can now use the “budget reconciliation” process to sidestep GOP objections to another pandemic relief bill. The vote shows the Democrats’ unified determination to push forward on President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion proposal for COVID-19 relief, though not every Democrat is on board with all elements of the plan.
“I am so thankful that our caucus stayed together in unity. We had no choice given the problems facing America,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, said in a speech after the passage of the resolution. “We cannot underscore enough how much help America needs during this awful crisis. And we cannot miss the point that we still have a long way to go. This was a giant first step.”
The new 50-50 split in the Senate only gives the Democrats (because Harris can be the tie-breaker) the slightest advantage because 60 votes are needed to overcome a type of delaying tactic called a filibuster. But the budget reconciliation process allows certain bills to be passed with a simple majority—or at least 51 votes.
The effort to pass a new rescue bill gained new urgency from Friday’s weak January jobs report, which showed that the economic recovery has all but stalled out in the face of the pandemic’s winter resurgence.