The Senate, where Republicans have a narrow majority, is scheduled to have a vote on the proposal in the afternoon; the bill is likely to pass there, but the timeframe is not clear for a vote in the lower chamber, which is now on recess due to the coronavirus. Unemployment insurance is also being increased, while payments on federally-held student loans are being temporarily suspended.
The motion failed on a 48-48 vote.
The legislation now has to be passed in Congress and signed by US President Donald Trump. "Big help. Quick help", he said.
The measure drew criticism from some liberal groups and Governor Andrew Cuomo of hard-hit NY, who said it was barely "a drop in the bucket".
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House will give members 24 hours to review and debate the bill before they take action on the floor, likely via a voice vote if all members accept that.
Newsweek reached out to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer for comment but did not receive responses in time for publication.
In a major relief to hospitals, the bill provides $130 billion.
The Senate Democrats also added a provision that bans businesses owned by the President, Vice President, members of Congress and the heads of the executive branch from receiving loans or investments through that fund.
Aimed at getting the money to Americans and businesses amid the pandemic, the bill's next stop is the House of Representatives, which is scheduled to vote on it Friday.
"We spent more time thinking about the small businesses than the big", Trump said.
Four lawmakers were absent from the vote, as Republican Senators Rand Paul (Kentucky), John Thune (South Dakota), Mitt Romney (Utah) and Mike Lee (Utah) are each either ill with Covid-19, or in self-isolation.
Business owners in MA said that money couldn't come soon enough.
"There's a lot of good in this bill", Graham said. "What's missing here is the urgency to get dollars into the hands of business owners and their employees now", she said.
The massive boost in unemployment insurance is expected to cost $250 billion.
Unemployment benefits provide an additional $600 per week for up to four months, on top of funds provided by state unemployment. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said Wednesday that they would object to fast-tracking the bill over a provision that would grant an extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits to low-wage workers who lose their jobs. Graham said. "The Kennedy center may be an unbelievable place to go, I'm sure it is".
The amendment they want to introduce would limit unemployment benefits to 100% of a worker's salary. Portman said the Internal Revenue Service "will be presenting these checks quickly".
Pelosi said in a Tuesday interview that she hopes to pass the bill via unanimous consent, a procedure that does not require the lawmakers' physical presence.
Mnuchin predicted eligible recipients would receive the $1,200 checks within three weeks if the IRS has direct deposit information on file.
And negotiators came a long way. The White House has indicated that Americans could be seeing direct payments as soon as April 6.