- The Senate approved the $US900 billion federal rescue package on Monday evening, sending the legislation to President Donald Trump’s desk for his signature.
- The House approved the spending package earlier in the evening.
- The massive spending bill is meant to help address the economic effects of the coronavirus. The Senate combined it with separate government funding needed to avert a federal government shutdown.
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The Senate approved the $US900 billion federal rescue package along with a government funding bill on Monday evening, clearing the way for one of the largest pieces of legislation ever taken up by Congress to reach President Donald Trump’s desk for his signature.
The chamber passed it by a tally of 92 to 6. Those opposing it consisted of strongly conservative Republicans. The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed it only two hours earlier.
If signed into law as expected, the emergency spending package will funnel hundreds of billions of dollars to unemployed Americans and ailing businesses grappling with the devastating consequences of the pandemic. Those measures include $US300 weekly federal unemployment benefits and $US600 direct payments to Americans earning below $US75,000. It also directs federal funding to transportation agencies, public-health departments, and vaccine distribution.
The final rescue package was the culmination of months of tumultuous negotiations between congressional leaders. Republicans and Democrats clashed over the amount of spending needed to prop up the economy.
Many economists and Federal Reserve officials have urged lawmakers to approve more emergency spending since the summer. But numerous talks fell through since July, and lawmakers had not approved any emergency legislation since the $US2 trillion CARES Act in March.
Then a bipartisan group of moderate senators earlier this month began to make progress. They led efforts to draft a compromise agreement that formed the basis of negotiations between senior members of both parties.
On Sunday night, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that the parties had reached a long-awaited deal.
Congressional leaders merged the $US900 billion relief package with a $US1.4 trillion government funding bill to speed up the proceedings. The legislation overall stretched to 5,593 pages and encompassed a wide range of tax and spending measures reaching $US2.3 trillion, making it one of the largest bills Congress had ever considered. It was introduced only hours before lawmakers voted on it.
If signed into law, the funding will avert a government shutdown and keep federal agencies open until next September. It also includes many tax breaks for businesses. The nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that the tax reductions were worth $US150 billion.
The coronavirus relief spending is nearly twice the amount of aid many Republicans wanted to spend heading into the 2020 election. McConnell threw his support behind a $US500 billion economic-aid plan that Democrats blocked in both September and October.
Many Republicans were reluctant to spend as much as Democrats thought was necessary, but congressional Democrats have emphasised recently they will seek more federal aid once President-elect Joe Biden takes office. He released a statement Sunday saying “our work is far from over.”
“Congress will need to get to work on support for our COVID-19 plan, for support to struggling families, and investments in jobs and economic recovery,” Biden said. “There will be no time to waste.”