As Congressional leaders prepared to pass a massive $ 900 billion Covid-19 aid bill in just one day, keeping the promise of temporary relief for millions of struggling Americans, prominent Democrats asked why the Agreement took so long to reach and has not yet been fulfilled. meeting the urgent needs of the country.
The proposed aid package, the second-largest economic stimulus attempt in U.S. history after the $ 2.3 trillion Cares Act earlier this year, is expected to rush through both houses of Congress on Monday. , against a deadline to fund the government for next year.
The 11-hour nature of the deal is likely to lead to unseemly rush scenes in both the House and Senate, with lawmakers having just a few hours to read the massive bill before voting.
The House was prepared to pick up the bill on Monday morning, with the goal of passing the package before noon. It would then go to the Senate, where Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hoped to crush it on the same day as well.
Donald Trump has complained that Congress has not acted so far, stating in a cheep on Sunday: “Why isn’t Congress giving our people a stimulus bill? [The pandemic] It wasn’t his fault, it was China’s fault. DO IT, and give them more money in direct payments. “
But the White House has indicated that the president will sign the bill.
The agreement was resolved between the leaders of both parties on Sunday night. It includes $ 286 billion in direct financial aid, and more than half goes to direct payments of $ 600 to people earning up to $ 75,000 or couples up to $ 150,000.
Additionally, the United States government will reset pandemic unemployment benefits to a lower level of $ 300 per week. The benefits, which will last until March 14, are less than the $ 600 benefits that expired in July.
With cash support cut in half, prominent Democrats lamented that it took until the last minute to resolve disputes delaying the package, and that when it is finally done, the deal will remain insufficient. Chris Murphy, a senator from Connecticut, said it was too little and too late.
“For months, Americans sagging under the weight of Covid-19 begged Congress for help,” he said. “But until a few days ago, Mitch McConnell refused to even come to the negotiating table. It should not have taken until the last possible minute to fund the government and provide some measure of relief to those in need. “
Despite criticism, Murphy said he would back the bill when it reaches the Senate, arguing that it would “help small businesses keep their doors open. It will help those who have lost their jobs. And it will help ensure that we can get the vaccine out to people in our state as quickly as possible. “
Other top Democrats, like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, also said the bill doesn’t go far enough. They have vowed to pressure Joe Biden for more relief when he takes office on January 20.
But given the depth of Republican intransigence that has made the passage of the current bill so slow and cumbersome, the likelihood that Biden will pass another big aid bill in Congress seems slim. In addition, he highlighted the critical importance of Georgia’s two second-round Senate elections on January 5 that will determine which party controls the chamber.
Elements of the relief agreement include a $ 325 billion fund to provide forgivable loans to small businesses, $ 82 billion for pandemic-affected schools and universities, and $ 69 billion to help smooth and rapid distribution. of Covid-19 vaccines. For the first time, the federal government will also establish a rental assistance program that will provide support through state and local governments to help people who have fallen behind in paying their rent.
Discussion over the final terms of the bill continued throughout the weekend, including a rare Saturday session. At the end of lengthy discussions Sunday night, McConnell said, “We can finally report what our nation has long needed to hear: more help is on the way.”
He added: “A few moments ago, in consultation with our committees, the four leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives finalized an agreement for another important rescue package for the American people.”
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