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Analysis: Democratic divides sharpen even as Biden's Covid-19 relief package moves forward

March 6, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 20.1%. 2 min read.

The honeymoon is over for President Joe Biden and Senate Democrats, whose unified front has been thrown into doubt during the final stages of negotiations on the White House's $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill.

The party's fragile internal peace, which Biden and his team have tended to with great care since he won the Democratic nomination last year, suffered a double blow over the past 24 hours, as moderates clashed with progressives on the Senate floor, placing the White House's big-ticket "American Rescue Plan" in legislative purgatory on the eve of its expected passage.

Though still likely to succeed on a party-line vote, the shape and scope of the bill remained an open question overnight, as West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, voted for a Republican amendment that would pare back jobless benefits further than what Democrats believed, earlier in the day, had been a compromise with support throughout their ranks.

The clashes underscored abiding divisions within the party, exposed the fragility of its narrow Senate majority and foreshadowed more visceral fights to come, like the brewing clash over a comprehensive new voting rights and election integrity bill passed this week in the House -- the kind of legislation that will require all 50 Senate Democrats to get on board along with ten Republicans.

As Democrats moved closer toward the current legislation's passage, the Senate late on Friday began a process known, colloquially, as a vote-a-rama, which allows lawmakers from both parties to offer up amendments, usually as a means of trolling the other side or putting their rivals on the spot over contentious, though unrelated, issues.

Sinema in a statement after her vote insisted she was open to an increase in the minimum wage, but not through the reconciliation process Senate Democrats are using to move Biden's Covid relief bill.

"Senators in both parties have shown support for raising the federal minimum wage and the Senate should hold an open debate and amendment process on raising the minimum wage, separate from the COVID-focused reconciliation bill," the Arizona Democrat said.

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