Politics

Congress Overwhelmingly Passes Coronavirus Relief Package, Government Funding Bill

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Congress voted overwhelmingly Monday night to pass a sweeping $900 billion coronavirus stimulus package and a $1.4 trillion government funding bill, sending it to the White House for a presidential signature before becoming law.

The wide-reaching bill was passed in the Senate by a bipartisan margin of 91-7. It passed in two sections in the House of Representatives earlier Monday evening; the first, which included four of the 12 appropriations bills, passed 327-85, while the second, which included the relief package and the addition eight bills, passed 359-53.

The compromise was announced Sunday, ending months of partisan gridlock just days before Congress departs for the holidays and before crucial financial benefits were set to expire for millions of Americans. The bill could be a lifeline for Americans across the country as unemployment numbers and coronavirus cases and deaths rise in states across the country.

President Donald Trump has said that he will sign the bill, averting a government shutdown and authorizing direct relief for millions across the country. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Monday that Americans should see their checks arrive beginning next week.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Dec. 20, 2020. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Despite the bill’s passage, many lawmakers were frustrated with the legislation, which was written largely by congressional leaders without the input of many rank-and-file members. Most lawmakers read the 5,593-page bill’s text only hours before voting on it, due to its being written behind closed doors and a malfunctioning computer file that prevented its distribution Monday. (RELATED: Congress Finally Agreed On A Massive Stimulus Package. Here’s What’s In It)

“Congress is expected to vote on the second-largest bill in U.S. history *today*… and as of about 1 p.m., most members don’t even have the legislative text of it yet,” tweeted New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. “It’s not good enough to hear about what’s in the bill. Members of Congress need to see & read the bills we are expected to vote on.”

She was echoed by Michigan Libertarian Rep. Justin Amash, who lamented congressional leadership for the bill’s closed-door creation.

“For half a year, congressional leaders refused to put any legislation on the floor to be considered AND scrutinized AND amended,” he tweeted. “Now, they release a 5,593-page bill with no opportunity to read it, let alone amend it. No responsible legislator should vote for such a thing.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on December 20, 2020. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

The bill, which provides $600 stimulus checks, $300 weekly unemployment checks for 14 weeks and approximately $280 billion for small businesses, overcame several last-minute objections that threatened to torpedo the progress made in recent days.

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson Friday blocked a bipartisan push for $1,200 checks led by Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders over his concerns about the bill’s size and the country’s $27 trillion national debt. (RELATED: Josh Hawley, Bernie Sanders Team Up In Joint Push For Direct Cash Payments)

Republican Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey also led a last-minute GOP effort Friday to rein in the Federal Reserve’s lending powers, but reached a compromise with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer late Saturday ahead of the package’s announcement.

The stimulus package, which is the second-largest in American history, also provides $69 billion for states’ coronavirus vaccination, testing, tracing and prevention efforts. The United States has averaged approximately 216,000 new daily coronavirus cases over the past week, and daily deaths have surpassed 3,000 throughout December.

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