After some delay waiting for an official bill “score” from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Senate voted today to begin debate on legislation that embodies the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.

Major tech priorities included in an earlier Senate draft of the bill appear unchanged in the official version of the bill introduced today. Most notably on the Federal IT landscape, the Senate bill provides substantial funding for the Technology Modernization Fund, as well as for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and other tech priorities.

Debate Proceeds

“The United States is facing a once in a century crisis that has sapped millions of jobs from our economy, left millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet, and stolen more than half a million American lives,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said from the Senate floor. “The time is now to move forward with big, bold, strong relief for the American people.”

The chamber took up a vote to begin debate, and deadlocked along party lines at 50-50 before Vice President Kamala Harris cast the tie-breaking vote.

That vote would have kicked off 20 hours of debate, in accordance with the Congressional Budget Act, but an objection to a motion to dispense with the reading of the bill meant the clerk will read the entire bill aloud.

Earlier this week, the version of the American Rescue Act already approved by the House was placed on the Senate calendar to begin the legislative process in the Senate. The Senate has included its version of the bill as an amendment, though just in name. The amendment calls for the entirety of the House bill’s language to be struck, and replaced with the language Senate’s bill.

Tech Spend Totals

While still a far cry from the $10.2 billion of TMF and cyber spending President Biden proposed in January, the Senate’s bill includes a total of $2 billion for TMF and other tech priorities, as well as money for other Federal technology programs and upgrades. In all, the Senate’s version includes:

  • $1 billion for TMF;
  • $7.17 billion for an Emergency Connectivity Fund via the FCC’s E-Rate program;
  • $2 billion for Unemployment Insurance infrastructure to be administered by the Labor Department;
  • $650 million to CISA;
  • $500 million to the Centers for Disease Control for COVID-19 data modernization and tracking;
  • $200 million for the U.S. Digital Service;
  • $150 million to General Services Administration for Federal Citizen Services fund; and
  • $140 million for the Indian Health Service for IT, telehealth, and electronic health records infrastructure.

Weekend Work Planned

Between the initial delay and the reading of the Senate bill – the latter of which does not affect the 20 hours of debate planned – the timeline for a final vote on the package has likely been pushed to the weekend. The Senate will not begin its “vote-a-rama” amendment process until late Friday, and all amendments proposed must be voted on before the bill itself can receive a final vote.

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