Congress passes massive COVID relief and government funding bill
Washington - Both houses of Congress passed a $ 900 billion relief effort Monday evening to provide long-awaited relief to Americans, small businesses and industries hit by the coronavirus pandemic. The $ 900 billion package is combined with a $ 1.4 trillion omnibus expense bill that the federal government will fund through September.
The vote in the House of Representatives was divided into two parts. Part One, which included defense; Commerce, Justice, Science; Homeland security; and financial services sections of the omnibus, which were passed by 327 votes to 85. Part 2 contained eight expense bills - including the COVID relief bill - and was passed with a margin of 359 votes to 53.
The measures were then bundled and sent to the Senate, where the legislation was passed by 92-6 votes. The bill is now going to the White House to make the president's signature law.
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After months of unsuccessful negotiations, Congress leaders agreed on the coronavirus measure on Sunday, ending the month-long Republican-Democratic stalemate that delayed aid to those hardest hit by the public health crisis that ravaged the U.S. economy .
"We're going to do something good with this legislation, but we need to recognize that more needs to be done to eradicate the virus and put more money into the pockets of the American people," House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi said Monday in a speech on the floor of the house, adding that she was expecting a "strong bipartisan vote" on the bailout deal.
The legal text of the huge package of 5,593 pages was published shortly before 2 p.m. and the legislature prepared for a long night as they worked days before Christmas to pass the measure. The aid package included $ 600 in direct payments to most Americans, $ 300 a week in increased federal unemployment benefits through March 14, and more than $ 284 billion in corporate loans under the popular paycheck protection program. The relief measure also extends the eviction moratorium through January 31 and provides more than $ 30 billion to expedite the spread of coronavirus vaccines.
The federal spending deal also included a provision to end medical billing, a bilateral support issue, and the establishment of a Women's History Museum and the National Museum of American Latino.
The $ 600 checks are half as generous as the $ 1,200 payments distributed under the CARES bill in the spring. Americans who made less than $ 75,000 in 2019 are eligible for the full $ 600, with payments for those who made up to $ 100,000, according to a summary of those distributed by lawmakers and Washington Post published laws decrease. Parents will also receive $ 600 per dependent child, an increase over the $ 500 under CARES.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said CNBC Americans could start seeing payments on their bank accounts as early as next week.
"This is a very, very quick way to get money into the economy," Mnuchin said Monday morning. "Let me emphasize, people will see this money early next week."
Democratic and Republican congressional leaders on Sunday expressed optimism that the combined measures would be swiftly approved by both houses of Congress. Calling the deal a "first step", Pelosi predicted that further relief would come once President-elect Joe Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris take office in January.
Mr Biden took to Twitter shortly after the bill was approved and said, "I applaud this aid package, but our work is far from over. As of the New Year, Congress must work immediately to support our COVID. My message to everyone out there who are currently having problems: Help is on the way. "
The House of Representatives and Senate most recently approved a major aid package addressing the economic chaos wrought by the March pandemic, despite the fact that the two houses then took their own separate measures that did not find enough support from both parties to pass to become. The White House and Pelosi spent the intervening months in failed negotiations on another measure, although they disagreed on the size and scope of the package.
Republicans pushed for the next bill to provide corporate liability protection, while Democrats wanted billions of dollars in federal aid to state and local governments that have suffered a financial blow from the pandemic. In the end, neither of the two priorities was included in the targeted action agreed by the Congress leaders.
With several key COVID relief programs nearing the end of the year and a deadline for government funding, the four leaders in Congress - Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and House Minority Leader Kevin, stand by McCarthy - gathered last week to work out a deal to fund the government and help those struggling with the pandemic.
Talks stalled after Pennsylvania GOP Senator Pat Toomey released a language to curb the Federal Reserve's emergency lending agency. Ultimately, however, he agreed to restrict the language to only apply to three credit facilities set up by the CARES Act in March.
To avoid a failure of all government funding, Congress approved emergency funding measures three times, giving congressional leaders more time to close a deal and bypass a partial government shutdown. The second rolling resolution, which extended state funds to Monday, was approved by both chambers in a rare weekend meeting and signed by President Trump late Sunday. Another, extending funding to Monday, December 28th, was signed by Mr Trump early Tuesday.
Kimberly Brown and Jordan Freiman contributed to this report.
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