Lawmakers approve $900B relief package

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Washington, December 23, 2020 | comments

Congress on Monday night passed a $900 billion covid-19 relief package to deliver long-sought cash to businesses and individuals and provide resources to vaccinate a nation grappling with the economic and health toll of the pandemic.

Lawmakers tacked on a $1.4 trillion catchall spending bill and thousands of pages of other end-of-session business in a bundle of bipartisan legislation as Capitol Hill prepared to close the books on the year.

The relief package, unveiled Monday afternoon, sped through the House and Senate in a matter of hours. The Senate cleared the package by a 91-7 vote after the House approved it in a 359-53 vote. The bill goes to President Donald Trump for his signature, which is expected in the coming days.

The relief package, agreed to on Sunday and finally released in bill form Monday, establishes a temporary $300-per-week supplemental jobless benefit and a $600 direct stimulus payment to most Americans, along with a new round of subsidies for hard-hit businesses and restaurants and money for schools, health care providers and renters facing eviction.

The 5,593-page legislation -- the longest bill in congressional history by far -- came together Sunday after months of battling, posturing and post-election negotiating that reined in a number of Democratic demands as the end of the congressional session approached. President-elect Joe Biden has been eager for a deal to deliver long-awaited help to suffering people and a boost to the economy, even though it was less than half the size that Democrats wanted in the fall...

ARKANSANS' SUPPORT

U.S. Reps. French Hill, Steven Womack and Bruce Westerman commended the bipartisan effort to pass the omnibus legislation, but they criticized the monthslong delays in providing the latest round of much-needed aid.

"This long-awaited package is the result of a substantial bipartisan effort by my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to provide the people of Arkansas with much-needed relief," Hill said in a statement after the bill cleared the House.

"While Speaker Pelosi could have accepted a very similar bill from House and Senate Republicans in July, passing this relief package shows a bipartisan desire to support American families and small businesses and give them assurances and confidence before the end of the year."

Womack said: "Tonight, the House finally completed its appropriations duty and delivered enhanced resources to combat the coronavirus. This package secures wins for Arkansas and the nation by investing in vaccine distribution, assisting families and small businesses, supporting rural hospitals, and boosting our military readiness.

"However, Congress deserves no praise. The bill before us should have been voted on months ago. I realize -- as do the American people -- that this is not the ideal way to go about funding the government and providing pandemic relief. No one in this chamber disputes that fact. I've called for changes to our budget and appropriations process that could very well add efficiency and dignity to Congress. Our constituents deserve better than the constant cycle of political games, partisan obstruction, and missed deadlines."

Westerman said in a statement that "It's been a long negotiating process, but I believe we've got a winning end product."

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