Politics

Congress announces $900 billion COVID-19 stimulus package and $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill

PHOTO CREDITS: JACQUELYN MARTIN/AP

Congress announced a sweeping compromise on a $900 billion coronavirus stimulus package and a $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill Sunday night.

After days of tense negotiations and months of partisan stalemate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that leadership from both chambers had finalized an agreement. “It is packed with targeted policies that help struggling Americans who have already waited entirely too long,” he said. The announcement follows policy disputes and partisan finger-pointing between Democrats and Republicans that fueled uncertainty over whether lawmakers would manage to close out a deal or whether talks would collapse with lawmakers soon set to leave Washington for the holidays and the end of the 116th Congress in sight.

The House passed a one-day government funding bill earlier Sunday night to avoid a government shutdown at midnight, and the Senate then passed the continuing resolution. President Donald Trump signed it shortly before midnight, buying Congress 24 hours before the next deadline. The House will vote on Monday on the final Covid relief package along with the $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill for a new fiscal year, according to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who relayed that message to Democrats on a caucus call, sources said.

Americans making $75,000 a year or less will receive a $600 stimulus check, and couples making $150,000 a year or less will receive $1,200, plus $600 per child, the summary says. While the $600 is half of that issued after the CARES Act passed in March, the $600 per child is $100 greater than what the CARES Act authorized. Several senators, led by the bipartisan team of Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, had pushed for $1,200 payments. Their effort was ultimately blocked two separate times Friday by Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, who cited concerns over the stimulus bill’s size and the national debt (Daily Caller).

Here are key provisions that will be included as part of the agreement, according to a release Sunday evening from House and Senate Democratic leaders:

Aid for struggling small businesses, including more than $284 billion for forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans and $15 billion “in dedicated funding for live venues, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions”; $300 per week for enhanced unemployment insurance benefits; $25 billion for rental assistance and an eviction moratorium extension; $82 billion for education providers like schools and colleges, including aid to help reopen classrooms safely; $10 billion to help with child care assistance; $13 billion in increased Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and child nutrition benefits; $7 billion to bolster broadband access to help Americans connect remotely during the pandemic; Funding totaling in the billions of dollars to support coronavirus vaccine distribution, testing and contract tracing efforts and health care workers; A tax credit “to support employers offering paid sick leave”; A number of procedural steps still need to take place to clear the way for a vote in both chambers, with the potential to further slow the process (CNN).

Once the text is unveiled, the House Rules Committee will have to consider the package in a meeting that could take several hours. Then, they will have to schedule a House floor debate and set up votes in the chamber. The Senate is more complicated because it requires consent of all 100 members to schedule a vote, and it’s uncertain if that will happen if any member is unhappy with the bill or the process. If they can’t get an agreement for a quick vote, McConnell will be forced to take procedural steps to set up a vote, a process that could take several days.

Hill leaders had been saying for days that a deal was close at hand, a promise that was reiterated Saturday night after Democrats and Republicans reached an apparent resolution to a contentious partisan dispute over the role of the Federal Reserve to intervene in the US economy. Following negotiations over a provision pushed by Republican Sen. Pat Toomey to pare back the role of the central bank’s emergency lending authority, Schumer and the Pennsylvania Republican reached a deal in principle over the provision, aides said (MSN).

POLITICS EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE

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