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Sullivan returns to Alaska for family funeral amid Senate debate

Sen. Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanTrump mocks Murkowski, Cheney election chances Congress must address the toxic exposure our veterans have endured GOP lawmakers ask Biden administration for guidance on reopening cruise industry MORE (R) departed Washington, D.C., on Friday to return home to Alaska for a family funeral, leaving Republicans short a vote amid the Senate's free-wheeling debate over the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.

“Due to the recent passing of his father-in-law, Senator Sullivan had to depart on a Friday afternoon flight to make it back to Fairbanks, Alaska in time for the funeral,” Sullivan spokesperson Nate Adams told The Hill.

“Senator Sullivan intended to vote against final passage of the bill and made his opposition clear in a statement on Thursday, after his vote against the motion to proceed with consideration of the bill,” Adams added. 

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Sullivan’s departure will mean Republicans have one less vote to rely on as they push amendments to the relief package as part of the chamber's sprawling vote-a-rama session.

During the session, any senator can propose an amendment to be added to the relief package, with only a majority vote needed for it to succeed.

Even with Sullivan’s absence, Republicans can still add their amendments if the party remains unified and at least one Democrat defects.

In a sign of the uncertainty, an amendment over unemployment insurance has already snagged the debate over the overall legislation. One amendment would provide $300 extra per week in unemployment insurance through mid-July, while a competing amendment would provide a $300 weekly payment through September. Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinHouse committee approves DC statehood bill Romney, Sinema teaming up on proposal to raise minimum wage The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden defends Afghanistan withdrawal after pushback MORE (D-W.Va.) remains the swing vote on which prevails.

The same math applies for the final bill, passage of which is expected to be determined this weekend. 

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Sullivan was a safe “no” vote on the legislation, arguing this week that the bill was too expensive and contained superfluous measures that would not help combat the coronavirus pandemic or its financial fallout.

It was not immediately clear if Sullivan will be back in Washington for the final vote, the precise timing of which remains up in the air. 

“There is no doubt that this bill contains some significant provisions that will help Alaskans, such as funding for struggling individuals and communities, the university system, and additional relief for Alaska’s tourism industry. But too much of this bill has nothing to do with pandemic relief. In fact, only a small fraction of the money being proposed will contribute to vaccinations and public health initiatives,” Sullivan said Thursday.