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The U.S. Congress approved a $ 900 billion ($ 1.18 trillion) pandemic aid package that would ultimately deliver long-sought cash to businesses and individuals and resources to vaccinate a nation that faces a terrifying increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths.

Lawmakers added a $ 1.4 trillion ($ 1.85 trillion) overhead bill and thousands of pages of other end-of-session issues into a massive package of bipartisan legislation as Capitol prepared to shut down. the books of the year. The bill passed tonight went to President Donald Trump for his signature, which is expected in the next few days.

The aid package, unveiled earlier today, passed quickly through the House and Senate in a matter of hours. The Senate approved the massive package with a vote of 92 to 6 after the House approved the COVID-19 package by another uneven vote, 359 to 53.

The United States Congress and Senate passed a COVID-19 relief bill with overwhelming bipartisan support. (AP)

The recounts were a bipartisan coda of months of partisanship and politicking as lawmakers argued over the relief issue, a jam that was broken after President-elect Joe Biden urged his party to agree to a compromise with top Republicans that is more small than many Democrats would have liked.

The bill combines funds to fight the coronavirus with financial aid for individuals and businesses.

It would establish a temporary supplemental unemployment benefit of US $ 300 ($ 396) per week and a direct stimulus payment of US $ 600 ($ 793) for most Americans, along with a new round of subsidies for businesses, restaurants and worst hit theaters and money for schools. , health care providers and tenants facing eviction.

The 5,593-page legislation, by far the longest bill in history, came together on Sunday after months of battles, posturing and post-election negotiations that halted a series of Democratic demands as the end of the session approached. Congress.

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 in the fall.

“This deal is not all I want, far from it,” said Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, a longtime voice in the old-school liberal wing of the Democratic Party.

“The choice before us is simple. It is about whether we help families or not. It is about whether we help small businesses and restaurants or not. It is about whether we increase (food stamp) benefits and strengthen hunger programs or not. And whether we help those who are dealing with job loss or not. For me, this is not a difficult decision. “

President Donald Trump
The bill is awaiting the signature of the president of the United States, Donald Trump. (AP)

Congress also passed a week-long interim spending bill to avoid a partial government shutdown at midnight and give Trump time to sign the sweeping legislation.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, a key negotiator, said on CNBC that direct payments would start pouring into bank accounts next week.

Democrats promised more help once Biden takes office, but Republicans were signaling a wait-and-see approach.

The measure would fund the government through September, wrapping a year’s worth of action on annual spending bills in a single package that never saw a Senate committee or debate on the floor.

The legislation followed a tortuous path.

Democrats played hard until Election Day, amid accusations that they wanted to deny Trump a victory that could help him prevail.

Democrats denied it, but their demands actually became more realistic after the loss of Trump and as Biden made it clear that half a loaf was better than none.

The final bill looked a lot like a $ 1 trillion ($ 1.32 trillion) package crafted by Senate Republican leaders in July, a proposal that at the time House Speaker Nancy Pelosi He mocked her for considering her too small.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gave a victory lap after preventing much more ambitious legislation from reaching the Senate.

He said Biden’s pragmatic approach was key.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked more ambitious legislation. (AP Photo / Timothy D. Easley)

“The fact that the president-elect suggested that we had to do something now was helpful in getting both Pelosi and Schumer to a better place,” Senator McConnell told The Associated Press.

“My take on what’s next is that we take a look. Happy to assess that based on the needs we faced in February and March.”

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris came to the Senate to vote on the bill.

“The American people need help and I want to be able to do what I can to help them,” he said.

On direct payments, the bill provides $ 600 to people earning up to $ 75,000 ($ 99,111) per year and $ 1,200 ($ 1,585) to couples earning up to $ 150,000 ($ 198,222), with payments eliminated for the highest income.

An additional payment of $ 600 per dependent child will be made, similar to the last round of aid payments in the spring.

“I hope we get the money early next week: $ 2,400 ($ 3,171) for a family of four,” Mnuchin said.

“A much needed relief just in time for the holidays.”

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi. (AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite)

The bonus unemployment benefit of $ 300 per week was half of the supplemental federal unemployment benefit provided in March by the CARES Act of $ 1.8 billion ($ 2.38 billion).

That more generous benefit and it would be limited to 11 weeks instead of 16 weeks. The direct stimulus payment of $ 600 was also half of the March payment.

The CARES Act was credited with preventing the economy from falling off a cliff during the widespread lockdowns in the spring, but Republicans controlling the Senate cited debt concerns in pushing against Democratic demands.

“Anyone who thinks this bill is enough has not heard the desperation in the voices of their constituents, has not looked into the eyes of a small business owner on the brink of ruin,” said Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer , a new member of all life. Yorker who lobbied hard to help his city’s transit systems, tenants, theaters, and restaurants.

The progress came after a bipartisan group of pragmatists and moderates devised a plan that built a middle ground that the top four leaders in Congress, the Republican Party, and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, used as the basis for their conversations. . Lawmakers urged leaders on both sides to withdraw from hard-line positions.

“Sometimes we feel like we’re in the desert because people on all sides of the aisle didn’t want to give in, to give the other side a victory,” said Rep. Elssa Slotkin, a freshman.

“And it was gross to watch, frankly.”

Kamala harris
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris voted in favor of the bill. (Getty)

Republicans were more determined to revive the Paycheck Protection Program with $ 284 billion ($ 275.3 billion), which would cover a second round of PPP grants for hit companies.

Democrats won reservations for low-income and minority communities.

The bill also contains $ 25 billion ($ 33 ​​billion) in rental assistance, $ 15 billion ($ 19.8 billion) for theaters and other live venues, $ 82 billion. million ($ 108.3 billion) for local schools, colleges and universities and US $ 10 billion ($ 13.2 billion) for child care.

Six Republican senators voted against the bill: Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Rick Scott of Florida, Mike Lee of Utah and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.

The government-wide appropriations bill is likely to provide a final installment of $ 1.4 billion ($ 1.85 billion) for Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall as a condition of obtaining his signature.

The Pentagon would receive $ 696 billion ($ 919.7 billion). Senate Democrats and Republicans prevailed in an attempt to use accounting maneuvers to squeeze $ 12.5 billion ($ 16.5 billion) more for national programs into legislation.

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 projects, environmental protection. and coastal of the 46th Army Corps of Engineers.

Another addition would expand a batch of tax breaks that will expire soon, such as one for craft brewers, wineries and distillers.

It would also include numerous clean energy provisions sought by Democrats with Republican-favored fossil fuel incentives, $ 7 billion ($ 9.25 billion) to increase broadband access, $ 4 billion ($ 5.3 billion) to help other nations vaccinate their people, US $ 14 billion ($ 18.5 billion) for private cash transit systems, US $ 1 billion ($ 1.3 billion) for Amtrak and US $ 2 billion ($ 2.6 billion) for airports and concessionaires.

Food stamp benefits would be temporarily increased by 15 percent.

The Senate Historical Office said the previous record for the length of the legislation was the 1986 tax reform bill of 2,847 pages, about half the size of the current behemoth.

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