Lawmakers reach COVID-19 relief deal
Leading lawmakers in Congress announced a roughly $ 900 billion COVID-19 relief bill on Sunday just hours before the government shutdown deadline - a deal that has been underway for nearly nine months.
"Moments ago, the four Senate and House leaders reached an agreement. It will be another important bailout for the American people," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the floor on Sunday evening. "For the information of all senators, and especially for the American people, we can finally report what our nation has had to hear for a long time: more aid is on the way."
"While our citizens continue to fight this coronavirus this holiday season, they will not fight alone," McConnell said. "Now we have to get the text ready immediately, avoid last-minute obstacles and work together to get this legislation through both chambers."
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House Democratic leader Steny Hoyer told the caucus that they would vote on a one-day emergency funding bill on Sunday evening to prevent Democratic aides from closing the government.
A final vote on the Spending Act and the COVID-19 Aid Act will take place on Monday in the House of Representatives before it goes to the Senate.
McConnell outlined a $ 900 billion package that includes a second paycheck protection program draw.
"We haven't worked as hard in all these months to save as many jobs as possible just to fumble with vaccinations already running," said McConnell.
The agreement also includes "huge sums" for the distribution of vaccines, "renewal and expansion" of unemployment benefits, money for schools.
"After a long and busy year, after a year of bad news, we finally have good news for the American people," said Chuck Schumer, chairman of the Senate minority. "Make no mistake. This agreement is far from perfect, but it will provide emergency relief to a nation in a real emergency."
Schumer emphasized, as he has done several times in the past few days, that the bill is not robust enough and should be viewed as a "deposit" that should be viewed "as the floor, not the ceiling".
After several months of partisan arguments over the scope and scope of the aid agreement, lawmakers agreed to increase weekly unemployment benefits by $ 300, $ 600 for relief checks for individuals, more than $ 300 billion for small business aid, and huge sums of money for schools and hospitals, and vaccine distribution .
PHOTO: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) walks through the Capitol on December 17, 2020. (Erin Scott / Reuters)
The deal comes because 12 million people will lose benefits if the pandemic's provisions to expand unemployment expire. Millions across the country will be displaced when a federal moratorium expires later this year.
All of this is because the rising number of COVID-19 cases is weighing on the economy: the number of Americans claiming unemployment benefits rose again to 885,000 in the week ended December 12 - the highest weekly total since September.
The leaders of Congress worked all weekend, but an agreement was reached over disagreements over the Federal Reserve's lending powers.
Pennsylvania GOP Senator Pat Toomey called for a provision on the Federal Reserve to be included in the final COVID-19 relief agreement. Its provision would prevent the next government and the Federal Reserve from restarting multiple expiring loan programs over the next year.
Democrats wept over the last-minute disputes, accusing Republicans of inserting partisan language that would bring the incoming Biden administration's efforts to respond to economic crises to its knees.
“Right now the Democrats are standing together. There was no disagreement in the caucus. We can't change that, "Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Told reporters about Toomey's supply on Saturday night.
"We're going to keep trying. We're trying, but this is a new thing. And what they asked for goes way beyond that. Something like that should have a strong legislative discussion," said Chuck Schumer, chairman of the Senate minority.
Despite the haggling at the eleventh hour, the negotiators remained optimistic that an agreement would be reached.
A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell confirmed late Saturday night that an agreement had been reached on the Toomey matter.
"After the Democrats approve a version of Senator Toomey's important language, we can finalize the rest of the package to bring much-needed aid to families, workers and businesses," said Doug Andres, spokesman for McConnell.
Toomey agreed to remove the language prohibiting the Fed from restoring credit facilities similar to those set out in the CARES bill, according to a Democratic adviser. Republicans also called for victory, with Toomey's team calling the compromise a compromise that will prevent the programs from being duplicated without the approval of Congress.
But now a midnight Sunday government shutdown deadline is affecting Congress as it seeks to pass both the stimulus package and a $ 1.4 trillion must-pass deal.
MORE: McConnell Says Pandemic Aid Deal With Aid To Individuals, Company Is "Close"
The House is expected to vote on both packages first, followed by the Senate - but they have time constraints and will likely take more time to get both packages across the finish line.
The leadership has warned members of Congress to keep their schedules open as they may have to work until Monday and it would also require another short-term funding bill.
If the legislature does not approve a short-term financing contract in the meantime, an expiration can lead to a partial shutdown with little impact.
The heads of state and government expressed frustration earlier in the week that their negotiations were again facing a tight deadline.
PHOTO: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, walks to the Senate at the Capitol on December 18, 2020. (Saul Loeb / AFP via Getty Images)
"I am so frustrated with the inability of us to act responsibly like adults," Maryland House Democrat leader Steny Hoyer said Friday. "We have a government of 2 million people waiting every hour to find out if they're going." work. "
"I think McConnell is the main culprit. But I don't think the rest of us are guilty," he said.
McConnell remained optimistic about coronavirus aid talks over the weekend.
MORE: Video: Representative raises drink to bipartisan deal
"I appreciate the good faith that has shaped my conversations with Democratic Leader, Spokesman Pelosi, Leader McCarthy, Secretary Mnuchin. But the American people cannot feed their families or pay their bills with the bona fide discussions of Congress," said McConnell . "You need us to act."
The new COVID-19 bill would "recycle" more than $ 400 billion in unused funds from the CARES bill, which Congress passed in March.
PHOTO: Mitch McConnell speaks to reporters after the Senate vote in the U.S. Capitol to confirm Supreme Court candidate Brett Kavanaugh. | Nancy Pelosi raises support for Dr. Christine Blasey Ford in the Rayburn Room in the U.S. Capitol. (Getty Images)
The Democrats admitted they had received a $ 160 billion defeat to state and local governments under the deal due to Republican opposition.
At the same time, McConnell agreed to remove corporate liability protection, what he called the "red line" for Republicans.
Democrats and Republicans both fought hard to include direct stimulus checks for Americans of $ 1,200 - the same amount approved by both chambers of Congress in the CARES bill in March.
MORE: Trump is rushing to hand out plum appointments to allies on the way to the door
An attempt by Senator Josh Hawley, R-Mo., To secure US $ 1,200 direct checks to Americans, failed the previous Friday.
Hawley, who had worked with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., On a direct scrutiny for several weeks, left the floor so frustrated that he said he could derail short-term funding efforts to allow the government to shut down later Friday prevent.
Hawley said he and other ordinary members had "stayed in the dark" for days about what was in the aid package, and with no assurance that the package would include direct reviews and a package to vote on, he was ready to join the effort Finding ways to buy a little more time with a short-term finance bill called an ongoing solution, or CR.
"I have no idea what's going on and I'm not ready to sign off a CR until I know what's going on," said Hawley. "It's starting to get to the point of absurdity. It's time for leadership to put what they have on the table - it's time for them to let members know what they have."
MORE: Senate Republican is using the hearing to prosecute unsubstantiated election fraud claims as Trump tweeted approval
Hawley called the Senate situation a "self-inflicted wound".
"If we spend hundreds of billions of dollars to save this, this, and the other, we could certainly start with some reasonable modest relief to the needy workers in this nation," Hawley said on the floor.
Senator Ron Johnson, R-Wis., Opposed the measure fearing that it would be ineffective and drive up debt.
ABC News’s Allison Pecorin contributed to this report.
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Legislature reaches out to the COVID-19 relief contract originally posted on abcnews.go.com
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