US House passes bill for $2,000 Covid-19 aid checks sought by Trump

Author : Kudujadi
Publish Date : 2020-12-29


US House passes bill for $2,000 Covid-19 aid checks sought by Trump

The Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives voted 275-134 to meet President Donald Trump's demand for $2,000 COVID-19 relief checks on Monday, sending the measure on to an uncertain future in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Trump last week threatened to block a massive pandemic aid and spending package if Congress did not boost stimulus payments from $600 to $2,000 and cut other spending. He backed down from his demands on Sunday as a possible government shutdown brought on by the fight with lawmakers loomed.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), walks from the House floor before an expected vote by the House on increasing the second round of federal direct payments to $2,000 on Capitol Hill Washington, U.S., December 28, 2020.

But Democratic lawmakers have long wanted $2,000 relief checks and used the rare point of agreement with Trump to advance the proposal - or at least put Republicans on record against it - in the vote on Monday.

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One hundred thirty Republicans, two independents and two Democrats opposed the increase on Monday.

Trump finally signed the $2.3 trillion package into law, while still demanding $2,000 checks.

It includes $1.4 trillion in spending to fund government agencies and $892 billion in COVID relief.

It is not clear how the measure to increase aid checks will fare in the Senate, where individual Republican lawmakers have said the higher amount would add hundreds of billions of dollars to the latest relief bill.

The Senate is due to convene on Tuesday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sunday made no mention of Senate plans for a vote, after welcoming Trump's signing of the relief bill.

The coronavirus pandemic has killed nearly 330,000 people in the United States and led to widespread economic hardship, with millions of families relying on unemployment benefits and COVID relief funds. 

The U.S. Congress on Monday approved an $892 billion coronavirus aid package, throwing a lifeline to the nation's pandemic-battered economy after months of inaction, while also keeping the federal government funded for another year.

President Donald Trump is soon expected to sign the package into law.

After days of furious negotiation, both legislative chambers worked deep into the night to pass the massive bill, with the House of Representatives first approving it and the Senate following suit several hours later in bipartisan votes.

The virus relief bill includes $600 payments to most Americans as well as additional payments to the millions of people thrown out of work during the COVID-19 pandemic, just as a larger round of benefits is due to expire on Saturday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, said she supported the virus relief bill even though it did not include the direct aid for state and local governments that Democrats had sought. She said they would try for it again next year after Democratic President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

The bill, she said, "doesn't go all the way but it takes us down the path."

Republican Representative Hal Rogers, who also supported the package, said "it reflects a fair compromise."

At 5,593 pages, the wide-ranging bill that also spends $1.4 trillion on an array of federal programs through next September, is likely to be the final major piece of legislation for the 116th Congress that expires on Jan. 3. Congress included a measure continuing current levels of government spending for seven days, ensuring no interruption to federal operations.

It has a net cost of roughly $350 billion for coronavirus relief, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, adding that more than $500 billion in funding comes from unspent money Congress had authorized.

The stimulus package, the first congressionally approved aid since April, comes as the pandemic is accelerating in the United States, infecting more than 214,000 people every day and slowing the economic recovery. More than 317,000 Americans have died.

The legislation also expands a small-business lending program by about $284 billion and steers money to schools, airlines, transit systems and vaccine distribution.

The small-business loan and grant program, known as the Paycheck Protection Program, would exclude publicly traded companies from eligibility.

Amid reports that the Trump Organization received past aid, the bill contains disclosure requirements for the president, vice president, heads of Cabinet departments, lawmakers and spouses and prohibits those individuals from receiving loans in the future.

State and local governments, which are struggling to pay for the distribution of newly approved COVID-19 vaccines, would receive $8.75 billion from Washington, with $300 million of that targeted at vaccinations in minority and high-risk populations.

Scrapped sticking points 

The deal, worked out in a rare weekend session of Congress, omits the thorniest sticking points, which included Republicans' desire for a liability shield to protect businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits as well as Democrats' request for a large outlay of money for cash-strapped state and local governments.

McConnell, interviewed by Fox News, pledged to renew his drive for the protections against corporate lawsuits in whatever coronavirus aid bill the incoming Biden administration pursues in early 2021.

The measure is far less than the $3 trillion called for in a bill that passed the Democratic-controlled House in May, which the Republican-controlled Senate ignored.

Biden has urged Congress to consider further stimulus for him to sign into law when he takes office on Jan. 20. "My message to everyone out there struggling right now, help is on the way," he said in a statement.

The bill would be the second-largest stimulus package in U.S. history, behind the roughly $2 trillion aid bill passed in March. Experts said that money played a critical role as social-distancing measures shuttered wide swaths of the economy.



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