U.S. senators scurry to refine Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID aid ahead of vote

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Negotiations over Democratic President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill go into overdrive this week as the U.S. Senate begins debate over the sweeping legislation and lawmakers jockey to include pet projects such as broadband connectivity.

Senator Angus King, an independent aligned with Democrats, has been pushing for billions of dollars to expand high-speed broadband service in rural areas – an idea that could attract Republican support.

But Democrats should not expect much, if any, Republican backing for the entire bill.

“It is my hope that at the end, Senate Republicans will unanimously oppose it, just like House Republicans did,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters, complaining that the measure was filled with provisions he said were unrelated to the pandemic.

Nonetheless, Democrats are bolstered by public opinion polls indicating a majority of Americans back Biden’s aid plan.

The Senate was due to take up as early as Wednesday the measure passed last weekend by the House of Representatives.

Democratic senators were privately discussing among themselves and with Biden reallocating at least some of the huge pot of money.

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