Congress Seals Agreement on COVID Relief and Government Funding

By ANDREW TAYLOR Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) – Top Capitol negotiators sealed a deal Sunday on a nearly $ 1 trillion COVID-19 financial aid package, ultimately providing aid to long-overdue businesses and individuals and money to deliver vaccines to a nation eager to receive them.

The deal, announced by congressional leaders, would establish a temporary supplemental unemployment benefit of $ 300 per week and a direct stimulus payment of $ 600 for most Americans, along with a new round of subsidies for the hardest hit businesses. and money for schools, healthcare providers, and tenants. facing eviction.

It came after months of battles and posturing, but the negotiating dynamics shifted in favor of the Republicans after the elections and as the end of the congressional session approached. President-elect Joe Biden was eager for a deal to provide long-awaited relief to suffering people and a boost to the economy, even though it was less than half the size Democrats wanted this fall.
House leaders informed lawmakers that they would vote on the legislation on Monday, and the Senate is likely to vote on Monday as well. Lawmakers were eager to get out of Washington and close out a tumultuous year.

“There will be another important bailout package for the American people,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Said in announcing agreement on an aid bill that would total nearly $ 900 billion. “It’s packed with specific policies to help struggling Americans who have already waited too long.”

A fight over the Federal Reserve’s emergency powers was settled Saturday night by Senate Top Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York and conservative Republican Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. That advance led to a final round of negotiations on Sunday.

Still, delays in finalizing the deal led the House to adopt a one-day interim spending bill to avoid a government shutdown at midnight Sunday. The Senate is also likely to pass the measure Sunday night.

The final deal would be the largest spending measure yet. It combined COVID-19 relief with a $ 1.4 trillion government funding plan and many other unrelated measures in taxes, healthcare, infrastructure and education. The whole government funding would keep the government open until September.

Approval came closer as coronavirus cases and deaths mounted and evidence accumulated that the economy was struggling.

Legislation has been delayed by months of dysfunction, posture, and bad faith. But the talks turned serious in recent days when lawmakers on both sides finally faced the deadline to act before leaving Washington for Christmas.

The bonus unemployment benefit of $ 300 per week was half the supplemental federal unemployment benefit provided under the CARES Act in March and would be limited to 11 weeks instead of 16 weeks. The direct stimulus payment of $ 600 for most people would also be half of the March payment, subject to the same income limits where a person’s payment began to be phased out after $ 75,000.

President Donald Trump supported the effort, particularly the push to provide more direct payments. “DO IT,” he said in a tweet Saturday night.

Lawmakers had hoped to pass the bill this weekend and avoid the need for an interim spending bill, but progress slowed on Saturday when Toomey pushed for a provision to close the Fed’s credit facilities. Democrats and the White House said it was drafted too broadly and would have tied the hands of the incoming Biden administration, but Republicans sided with Toomey’s position.

Following the announcement, Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, announced additional details, including $ 25 billion in rental assistance, $ 15 billion for theaters and other live venues, $ 82 billion for local schools, colleges and universities, and $ 10 billion for childcare.

Still, Democrats wanted more. Pelosi, in a letter to her colleagues, called the package an initial step. “In 31 days, when Joe Biden enters the White House, there will be more help on the way,” Pelosi said.

The government-wide appropriations bill would fund the agencies until next September. That measure is likely to provide a final installment of $ 1.4 billion for Trump’s US-Mexico border wall as a condition of obtaining his signature.

The bill was a driving force behind much of Capitol Hill’s unfinished business, including a nearly 400-page water resources bill targeting $ 10 billion for flood control, environmental protection and projects. Coastline of the 46th Army Corps of Engineers. Another addition would expand a batch of tax breaks that will expire soon, including one for craft brewers, wineries and distillers.

The end-of-session rush also promised relief for victims of shockingly high medical bills, a phenomenon that often occurs when providers leave insurance company networks.

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