Congress approves new stimulus plan that includes checks for many Americans
Congress planned to speed up the approval of a spending bill to provide economic stimulus in the face of the pandemic.
Congress passed a spending bill on Monday that will give a new round of economic stimulus to millions of Americans struggling during the coronavirus pandemic, opening new Smithsonian museums for Latinos and women.
While the leaders of Congress approved the outline of a deal on Sunday evening, the full details and text of the $ 5.593-page $ 2.3 trillion bill - considered the largest single piece of legislation in Congress history - were released just hours earlier The vote took place Monday evening, amid last-minute negotiations and even a corrupted computer file that slowed the printing of the documents.
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The onslaught frustrated ordinary lawmakers, who complained that the measure was just one more in a long-term series of mammoth bills they were supposed to approve without enough time to digest.
"Members of Congress did not read this bill," said MP Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) On Twitter. "There are over 5,000 pages that arrived at 2pm today and we should expect a vote in 2 hours. This is not governance. It is a hostage situation."
"Who in their right mind thinks this is a responsible way of governing?" said Senator Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who voted against the measure.
Despite their frustration, the legislature passed the massive bill with an overwhelming majority. Legislation, which was split in two to get through the House, was approved 327-85 and 359-53. Ocasio-Cortez and 40 other Democrats, as well as 43 Republicans, voted against the portion of the bill that funded the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security and other agencies.
The Senate approved Legislature 92-6. It is now time for President Trump to sign in the White House.
Congressional leaders in both parties have come under increasing pressure to pass laws to respond to the pandemic amid expiring programs - such as the moratorium on housing evictions - and a dramatic increase in coronavirus cases across the country, leading to restrictions resulted in the movement and closure of businesses.
It took months of negotiations to reach an agreement. Republicans have had to abandon the demand for corporate liability protection. The Democrats waived funding from state and local governments, trying to make the package just a down payment for a larger bill, which they will hopefully approve next year.
President-elect Joe Biden said he was ready to pick up the baton and predicted his administration's first legislative initiative.
"This action in the Lame Duck session is just the beginning," said Biden on Monday. "Our work is far from over."
Pressure on lawmakers has increased in recent days as they released pictures of themselves receiving some of the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine granted to members of Congress. Despite being given the injections according to the rules to ensure government continuity, critics said lawmakers were consistent in the struggle of unemployed Americans.
With $ 900 billion in stimulus provisions, the bill is the first attempt to respond to the coronavirus pandemic since April. It includes a new round of $ 600 payments for American adults earning up to $ 75,000. Additional federal unemployment benefits of $ 300 per week would go into effect for an additional 11 weeks. Both provisions build on similar payments in the first coronavirus relief package approved by Congress in March, but cut the funding amount in half.
Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said Monday on CNBC that some of the payments to individuals could run out as early as next week. Texas Rep. Kevin Brady, the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, said he expected all payments to be distributed by Jan. 15.
Additional funds would be used for COVID-19 vaccine sales, testing and tracking, and the popular corporate paycheck protection program. For renters, the bill would provide $ 25 billion in emergency rental assistance and add a month to an eviction moratorium that expires at the end of the year.
The bill contains provisions designed to help the entertainment industry and its workers. Independent venues such as live music stages and movie theaters are given $ 15 billion in grants to help them meet their bills for six months.
"These venues are so important to my state and many states across the country - they are the lifeblood of our communities," said Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). "They're the first to close and the last to open. The bill gives them a chance to fight."
Workers in the gig economy and entertainment industry, who earned most but not all of their income from 1,099 independent contracts, qualified for very little unemployment benefits - none of the additional $ 600 unemployment benefits that the Congress issued in March. The new bill seeks to address this flaw if states choose to do so, under a provision drafted by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank). It would provide an additional $ 100 weekly surcharge for those earning more than $ 5,000 in 1099 incomes if they are not eligible for the increased unemployment benefit. Schiff said he expected California to sign up for the program.
The bill includes several other sources of funding, including $ 45 billion for government transportation programs and money for schools and grocery stamps.
On top of the roughly $ 900 billion to fight the pandemic, it includes $ 1.4 trillion to keep the government going through September and avoid a Monday night shutdown. It also adds dozens of unrelated provisions - guidelines designed to win votes or clear the pending business of Congress before the end of the year. Massive year-end bills like this are known in Washington as "Christmas trees" because anyone seems able to put an ornament on them.
These awards include a long-sought bipartisan agreement that seeks to end what is known as "medical surprise billing" or situations where patients are billed for higher off-network rates when treated in an on-network facility Emergency rooms. The bill would mostly end the higher payment, especially in emergency treatment.
Legislation requires the State Department to set up a US consulate in Tibet, which could exacerbate tensions with China. And it directs the Smithsonian Institution to build new museums in or near the Washington National Mall dedicated to Latinos and women. The idea received widespread support but was blocked by Senator Mike Lee, R-Utah, over concerns that too many "separate but equal" museums would be divisible.
Employers received a number of tax credits, including one that Trump has long favored. Companies can deduct restaurant meals from their taxes for two years. Trump pushed politicians in the hope of giving the industry a boost. However, critics feared it could increase the spread of viruses in restaurants and benefit the rich.
The negotiations on a new economic stimulus program had been bogged down in party-political disputes for months. The Democratic-controlled House approved a $ 3.4 trillion bill in May, but Republicans in the Senate paused on a new bill.
"There is a tendency to say when Congress is bogged down, 'smallpox in both houses,'" said Schiff. "In this case, a house didn't want to do anything. The result is that we are doing far less than we should."
Democrats, led by spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), declined to approve individual parts of the bill, fearing that doing so would slow overall efforts or lead to a collection of provisions that would not reflect the full scope of the pandemic cover. The Republicans countered that the Democrats had gone too far.
"Democrats have chosen to play politics and not take 'yes' for an answer," said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.). "But now that the elections are over and the end of the year is near, there is suddenly room for a deal - a very bipartisan deal that has been on the table all along and that could have been put into law months ago."
After months of bouts and beginnings, negotiations were back in full swing earlier this month when a non-partisan group of lawmakers cut stimulus packages to around $ 908 billion and removed the most politically controversial parts.
This led Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) To renew their talks about the incentive combined with state funds to avoid a shutdown.
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.
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