Lawmakers reach 'bipartisan breakthrough,' announce $900 billion COVID-19 relief deal, will vote next
WASHINGTON - Congressional leaders announced on Sunday that they had reached an agreement on a nearly $ 900 billion COVID-19 relief package, which includes personal checks, small business loans and benefits for the unemployed with to face the consequences of the pandemic.
"Moments ago the four Senate and House leaders signed an agreement. It will be another important bailout for the American people," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Announced in the Senate.
McConnell hailed the "bipartisan breakthrough," saying the bill would need to be finalized and, barring "last-minute obstacles," through the House and Senate before President Donald Trump could legally sign it.
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To avert a deadline for the government to shut down on Sunday, Congress will pass a one-day extension of state funds on Sunday evening, giving lawmakers one day to review the deal and then vote on it on Monday.
The deal ends months of tussle between Republicans and Democrats over the type and scope of legislation to help the nation weather a pandemic that killed more than 317,000 Americans, infected millions, and closed numerous businesses.
Chuck Schumer, Chairman of the Senate Minority, D-N.Y., Said in the Senate that the deal was "far from perfect" but would provide "emergency aid" to the Americans. He vowed this would not be the "last word" on COVID-19 and said he would push for another bill once President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
The move Trump is likely to sign would include temporary additional unemployment benefits of $ 300 per week (less than the $ 600 provided under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, passed in March) and $ 600 in direct payments to most Americans (less than $ 1,200 worth of checks approved in the spring).
The relief is likely to be linked to a non-partisan spending law that the federal government is supposed to finance until September 30, the end of the financial year. Congress passed a two-day government funding bill on Friday evening, setting a deadline for the shutdown to buy more days of negotiation.
Government spending was due to expire on Friday, but Trump signed a bill that was passed by both houses that kept the government open and gave the negotiators on Capitol Hill another week to work out a compromise.
More: Trump pardons sparked controversy, but were the fewest in more than 100 years
Congress has not passed a comprehensive aid package since March. As the total number of cases rose and the benefits faded, Democrats and Republicans couldn't come together on another deal. The Democratic-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate offered their own versions of the legislation, which were only rejected by the other side.
Negotiations began and ended during the year. Both sides often blamed each other for the impasse as Americans and corporations hoped for relief.
A late summer effort failed to produce a deal just before lawmakers took a week-long hiatus, resulting in a number of executive orders from Trump. Talks started ahead of the election when moderate lawmakers asked the leadership to offer some form of relief to the warring Americans, but the two sides were unable to reach a compromise. Discussions started again this month. Both sides agreed that help was urgently needed as Americans go into winter and coronavirus cases rise.
As of Sunday, the US had reported more than 17.8 million confirmed cases.
Although both sides of the aisle have promised an agreement on government funding, several standstills have taken place in recent years. The administration has closed three times since Trump took office, including 35 days in 2018 - the longest closure in modern US history. It grew out of a stalemate between Congress and the White House over funding a wall along the US southern border.
More: House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Chairman McConnell Receive COVID-19 Vaccine, Rest of Congress to Follow
This article originally appeared in the US TODAY: COVID-19 Relief: Congress Approves Stimulus Checks and PPP Agreement
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