December 21st, 2020
Congress agrees on a $900 billion COVID relief bill with $600 stimulus checks
On Sunday, Congress reached an agreement on a $900 billion coronavirus stimulus package, which includes $600 in stimulus checks (for individuals who make up to $75,000 per year).
Both chambers of Congress could vote on the bill on Monday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell first announced the news of the agreement.Following McConnell’s announcement, Senate Minority Leader Senator Chuck Schumer, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also announced the agreement.Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said that this was only the beginning and that there would likely be a larger stimulus bill after President-elect Joe Biden takes office. Sunday night, Schumer told the press that “this is a good bill, but it is not the end of the story.”
Stimulus checks were excluded in a deal unveiled earlier this month by a bipartisan group.Democrats included a new round of direct payments in the two larger coronavirus aid packages that passed the House in May and October. Democrats generally supported adding checks to the talks if Senate Republicans would agree, according to several aides. Earlier this month, Senator Bernie Sander told reporters he was working "24/7 right now with anybody and everybody" to get stimulus checks added.But, it was finally included following support from both sides.
McConnell noted that the stimulus checks were included “at the particular request and emphasis of President Trump and his administration."With the Georgia senate election on January 5, McConnell reportedly said that the two incumbent Republican Senators “are getting hammered” over stimulus checks. Passing a stimulus bill is likely seen as necessary for McConnel to remain Senate Marjority Leader.
Senator Josh Hawley, who pushed for the inclusion of $1200 stimulus checks, called the $600 check "hardly adequate" but acknowledged that it is a "step in the right direction."
The response from the American people on Twitter has been catastrophically bad for both parties. Images of Queen Marie Antoinette of France with Speaker Pelosi and Maj. Leader McConnell's faces superimposed abound along with #LetThemEatCake and macabre images of the Guillotine. Stories of Congressional excesses and video of Pelosi calling the $600 per individual payments "significant" seem to have finally united Americans, in outraged anger at Congress.
President Trump also pushed for higher stimulus checks.The Trump administration's October proposal was the largest yet, but drew harsh criticism from both Republicans and Democrats who are both now targets of an enraged twitter storm. "It was expected to include a second round of direct payments of up to $1,200 for adults and $1,000 for children; expanded unemployment benefits at $400 per week and additional funding for state and local governments."
The $900 billion also include $300 weekly federal unemployment benefit and over $284 billion for the Payment Protection Program. Hopefully new specifications and restrictions will allow the PPP program to help more of those small businesses for whom the program was designed. According to recent Treasury Department data, around 600 larger companies, including dozens of national chains, received the maximum $10 million last go around, and only 28% was distributed in amounts less than $150,000. As per The Times, the package could also include $82 billion for colleges and schools, $25 billion in rental assistance, funds for vaccine distribution and extension of eviction moratorium.This is a far cry indeed from the $1.8 Trillion relief package proposed by the White House. A proposal that Leader McConnell reported told Fox Business he was "considering upping". It would appear that when an election isn't on the line, both parties very suddenly become a "tight-fisted hand at the grindstone" to paraphrase Dickens, each party having their own "squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinners".
Democrats opposed Trump’s earlier $1.8 trillion stimulus package because it lacked a plan for containing COVID-19, and provided inadequate funding for state and local governments and enough financial relief for American families. Republicans opposed the price tag, support for state and local governments, and extending the $600 per week unemployment payment. Republicans also pushed stimulus talks behind their rush to confirm a new Supreme Court justice prior to the election.“Nancy Pelosi is only interested in bailing out badly-run, crime-ridden Democrat cities and states. That’s all she is interested in,” Trump told reporters. “She is not interested in helping the people.” On the Democrat's $2.2 Trillion proposal Rep. Kevin McCarthy said "It would hand out taxpayer-funded checks to illegal immigrants while removing $600 million in funding for law enforcement. Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats aren't serious about helping Americans."