The Senate as of late Friday afternoon was continuing to debate the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, which contains considerable increases in Federal government funding for agency IT modernization and security upgrades.

Progress on the bill was held up by a reading of the legislation that began on Thursday afternoon and lasted until 2 a.m. on Friday morning. The Senate took the measure back up at 9 a.m. on Friday morning, kicking off three hours of debate plus a long amendment process that promises to stretch late into the night, and potentially the weekend.

“Now first and foremost, I want to thank everyone, everyone on the floor staff who worked late into the night and into the wee hours of the morning to finish reading the Senate amendment to the American Rescue Plan,” Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Friday morning.

“The Senate will move forward today with the American Rescue Plan. There will be a lengthy amendment process as the rules of the Senate require. The Senate is going to take a lot of votes, but we are going to power through and finish this bill however long it takes. The American people are counting on us and our nation depends on it,” Schumer said.

Twenty hours of debate on the bill were initially scheduled, but an agreement was made to cut that time to just three hours. The Senate will also need to vote on all proposed amendments to the bill before the legislation can receive a final vote.

Previously reported tech inclusions remain untouched in the bill, including $1 billion for the Technology Modernization Fund and another $1 billion for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and other tech priorities specified in President Biden’s January proposal. Other tech investments like money for E-rate funding, COVID-19 data tracking, and state Unemployment Insurance (UI) infrastructure help remain in the bill as well.

As of late Friday afternoon, just one amendment had been debated and voted on. That was an amendment offered by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., to include a $15/hour minimum wage in the bill. The amendment failed by a 42-58 vote, with eight Democrats joining Republicans in defeating the proposed amendment.

After that, the Senate proceedings slowed again for negotiations regarding amendments regarding duration and amounts of proposed unemployment benefits in the bill.

The Senate had still yet to start its “vote-a-rama” process, expected to stretch late into the night. There are over 420 amendments that need a vote, according to C-Span, up from the 105 filed by March 4.

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Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.
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