The U.S. House of Representatives passed an $892 billion coronavirus aid package on Monday (December 21) aimed at throwing a lifeline to the nation’s pandemic-battered economy, clearing the way for Senate approval later in the evening.
The House in a pair of bipartisan votes also passed a $1.4 trillion measure that will keep the U.S. government funded for another year, which will also go to the Senate for consideration.
The relief bill, which would become law if passed by the Senate and signed by President Donald Trump, 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.
The White House has said Trump will sign the bill.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, urged lawmakers to support the virus relief bill even as she complained 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.
Earlier, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, told reporters at the Capitol that passage of the legislation in the Senate would “probably be late, but we’re going to finish tonight.”
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.
It has a net cost of roughly $350 billion for coronavirus relief, 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.
(Production: Njuwa Maina)