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Congress approves a COVID relief bill of $900B sent to Trump

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Congress approves a COVID relief bill of $900B sent to Trump
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Congress approved a $900 billion pandemic relief plan that would potentially provide corporations and individuals with long-sought cash and money to vaccinate a nation facing a frightening surge in cases and deaths from COVID-19.

As Capitol Hill prepared to close the books on the year, lawmakers addressed a $1.4 trillion catchall spending bill and thousands of pages of other end-of-session business in a huge package of bipartisan legislation. Monday night’s accepted bill went to President Donald Trump for his signature, which was supposed to take place in the coming days.

In a matter of hours, the relief bill, introduced on Monday afternoon, raced through the House and Senate. After the House approved the COVID-19 package by yet another lopsided vote, 359-53, the Senate cleared the huge package by a 92-6 vote. As lawmakers wrangled over the relief issue, the tallies were a bipartisan coda to months of partisanship and politicking, a logjam that split after President-elect Joe Biden urged his party to embrace a compromise with top Republicans that is smaller than many Democrats would have preferred.

The bill blends coronavirus-fighting grants for individuals and companies with financial relief. It will create a temporary additional jobless gain of $300 per week and a direct stimulus payment of $600 to most Americans, along with a new round of incentives for hard-hit firms, restaurants, and theaters, and money for schools, health care facilities, and eviction-facing tenants.

After months of battle, posturing, and post-election talks on Sunday, the 5,593-page law, by far the longest bill ever, came together, reining in a variety of Democratic demands as the end of the congressional session approached. Even if it was less than half the scale that Democrats expected in the fall, Biden was ready for a compromise to provide long-awaited relief to suffering people and a boost to the economy.

“Said Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., a long-standing voice in the party’s old-school liberal wing, “This deal is not all I want, not by a long shot. “Before us, the choice is easy. It is about whether or not we are supporting families. It’s about whether or not we support small companies and restaurants. It’s about whether or not we raise (food stamp) incentives and improve anti-hunger programs. And whether or not we support those coping with work losses. This is not, to me, a difficult decision.

A one-week stopgap spending measure was also passed by Congress to avert a partial midnight government shutdown and allow Trump time to sign the sweeping legislation.

On CNBC Monday morning, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, a key negotiator, said direct payments will begin arriving in bank accounts next week.

When Biden took office, Democrats promised more assistance to come, but Republicans signaled a wait-and-see approach.

Via September, the measure will finance the government, wrapping up a year’s worth of action on annual spending bills into a single package that has never seen debate on the Senate committee or floor.

A tortured road accompanied the legislation. Until Election Day, Democrats played hardball, despite allegations that they tried to deny Trump a win that would help him prevail. Democrats denied that but after Trump’s defeat, their demands actually became more realistic, and as Biden made it clear that half a loaf was better than zero.

The final bill had ample similarity to a $1 trillion package put together in July by Republican senate leaders, a plan that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., scoffed at the time as way too little.

After blocking even more ambitious bills from hitting the Senate floor, majority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., took a victory lap. He said Biden’s realistic approach was important.

“McConnell told The Associated Press, “The president-elect saying we ought to do something now was helpful in pushing both Pelosi and Schumer into a better position. “Let’s take a peek at my impression of what’s next. Happy to decide that based on the needs we face in February and March.

Elected Vice President Kamala Harris, D-Calif., came to the Senate to cast her bill vote. She said, “The people of America need relief and I want to be able to do what I can to help them.”

The bill offers $600 for direct payments to people earning up to $75,000 annually and $1,200 for couples making up to $150,000, with payments phased out for higher incomes. Similar to the last round of relief payments in the spring, an additional $600 payment will be made per dependent child.

“I expect that by the beginning of next week we will get the money out—$2,400 for a family of four,” Mnuchin said. “So much needed relief for the holidays just in time.”

Half the supplementary federal unemployment benefit given under the $1.8 billion CARES Act in March was the $300 a week incentive jobless benefit. That gain would be more generous and would be limited to 11 weeks rather than 16 weeks. Half the March payment was also the direct $600 stimulus payment.

During widespread lockdowns in the spring, the CARES Act was credited with preventing the economy from falling off a cliff, but Republicans running the Senate cited debt issues in pressing against Democratic demands.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, a lifelong New Yorker who pushed hard for funding to support his city’s transportation systems, homeowners, theaters, and restaurants, said, “Whoever thinks this bill is enough has not heard the desperation in the voices of their constituents, has not looked into the eyes of the small-business owner on the brink of ruin.”

Progress came after a bipartisan coalition of pragmatists and progressives formulated a $908 billion package that established a middle-ground position that was used as the basis for their negotiations by the top four Congressional leaders, the GOP and Democratic leaders of both the House and Senate. On both sides, the legislators advised leaders to pull out of hardline positions.

“Freshman Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich, said: “At times we felt like we were in the woods because people on both sides of the aisle did not want to sacrifice in order to give the other side a victory. “And it was gross, frankly, to watch.”

With $284 billion, Republicans were most focused on reviving the Paycheck Insurance Program, which would fund the second round of PPP grants to extremely hard-hit firms. Set-asides for low-income and minority groups are won by Democrats.

$25 billion in rental aid, $15 billion for theaters and other live venues, $82 billion for local schools, colleges, and universities, and $10 billion for childcare are all included in the sweeping bill.

Six GOP senators voted against the bill: Tennessee’s Marsha Blackburn, Texas’s Ted Cruz, Kentucky’s Rand Paul, Florida’s Rick Scott, Utah’s Mike Lee, and Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson.

As a condition of obtaining his signature, the governmentwide spending bill was likely to include a final $1.4 billion installment for Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall. 696 billion dollars will be raised by the Pentagon. In an attempt to use bookkeeping maneuvers to squeeze $12.5 billion more for domestic services into the law, Democrats and Senate Republicans won.

The bill was an engine for much of Capitol Hill’s unfinished business, including a nearly 400-page water resource bill promising $10 billion for 46 flood control, environmental and coastal conservation programs by the Army Corps of Engineers. Another addition will be to prolong a batch of tax cuts that would soon expire, such as one for craft brewers, wineries, and distillers.

It would also carry several clean-energy provisions pursued by Democrats with Republican-favoured fossil fuel subsidies, $7 billion to expand internet access, $4 billion to help other nations vaccinate their citizens, $14 billion for cash-starved transportation networks, $1 billion for Amtrak, and $2 billion for airports and dealerships. The benefits of food stamps will be temporarily raised by 15 percent.

The previous record for the length of legislation was the 2,847-page tax reform bill of 1986, about half the size of Monday’s behemoth, the Senate Historical Office said.

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