The House and Senate passed a $900 billion coronavirus stimulus package on Monday night after Democratic and Republican leaders reached a last-minute relief deal on Sunday, ending a months-long gridlock in negotiations.
The Republican-controlled Senate voted 92-to-6 to pass the stimulus bill. Earlier on Monday, the Democratic-controlled House voted 359-to-53 to pass the legislation. The stimulus package was attached to the $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill that will keep the government running. It will now be sent to the president to be signed.
“To safely enter the economy and our schools, we must crush the virus,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said from the House floor on Monday night. “That's why we can support this bill. It doesn't go all the way, but it takes us down the path — a first step.”
The $900 billion stimulus deal includes $600 stimulus checks, extending two federal unemployment programs, and an additional weekly payment of $300 in jobless benefits, and another round of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
Also included are money for vaccine distribution, funding for schools, $25 billion in rental assistance, an extension of the eviction moratorium, $13 billion in food assistance, and $7 billion to increase access to broadband.
What’s left out of the new deal is aid for state and local governments and liability protections for businesses — both key sticking points in earlier negotiations. Democrats called the liability protection a “poison pill,” while the GOP characterized the state and local aid as a “blue state bailout.”
The price tag of the stimulus package has significantly decreased since lawmakers began negotiating the second stimulus deal in July.
Democrats came to the table with their $3.4 trillion HEROES Act, while the GOP came up with a $1 trillion HEALS Act during the summer. Many of the provisions in these two proposals have been trimmed or left out. The White House was also active in the negotiations and its stimulus proposal reached around $1.9 trillion before the election.
‘If negotiations had started in earnest after the election’
The deal came after four Congressional leaders — known as the “four corners” — Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) had a series of meetings last week to discuss the stimulus deal. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who has been representing the White House in talks, also joined the discussions.
With Republican and Democratic leaders releasing the text of the bill on Monday and putting it for a vote soon after, lawmakers had little time to review the over 5,500-page text. Lawmakers expressed concern about the short window they had to review the legislation.
“It’s over 5,000 pages, arrived at 2pm today, and we are told to expect a vote on it in 2 hours,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said in a tweet on Monday. “This isn’t governance. It’s hostage-taking.”
Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) also criticized the little time lawmakers had to review the bill. “It is almost 5,600 pages long and we’re expected to vote on it tonight,” he said in a statement on Monday.
While lawmakers closed final disagreements on Sunday, other issues may appear after the deal is carefully reviewed, according to Mark Harkins, a former congressional staffer and senior fellow at Georgetown’s Government Affairs Institute.
“When smelly bits undoubtedly rise to the surface over the next few weeks, this episode will not be looked on favorably,” he told Yahoo Money. “All this could have been avoided if negotiations had started in earnest after the election and the president had taken even a modicum of interest in the process.”