Congress agrees to $900B COVID aid bill, including stimulus payments
Fox News congressional correspondent Chad Pergram has the details on ‘Bill Hemmer Reports’
A vote on a $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill is currently underway Monday evening after lawmakers had about six hours to review the nearly 6,000-page bill when it went live online at 2 p.m.
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Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY., was quick to blast the short timeframe, arguing lawmakers "have not read this bill."
"It’s over 5000 pages, arrived at 2pm today, and we are told to expect a vote on it in 2 hours," she tweeted. "This isn’t governance. It’s hostage-taking."
She pointed out that the public also needs to be given a chance to see the bill with enough time to contact their representatives to let them know how they feel.
"Members are reeling right now because they don’t have time to consult with their communities," she added.
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Pushback also came the opposite side of the political aisle, with Congressman Andy Biggs, R-Az., tweeting that "no one will be able to read it all in its entirety."
"Special interests win. Americans lose," he said.
Biggs also put out a Twitter poll to his more than 267,000 followers asking whether members of Congress should vote on a 6,000-page bill without reading it in its entirety.
Congressman Ralph Norman, R-Sc., called the decision to release a 5,600 page PDF representing one of the largest spending bills in history "awful governance, and a disservice to the American people."
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The bill includes $600 direct payments for individuals making less than $75,000 per year and to couples making up to $150,000 per year. The total allocated for the checks in the legislation is $166 billion, far less than the $1,200 checks the government sent earlier this year and what some mebers of Congress, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Ark., wanted this time around.
It also allocates $82 billion to education, with $54 billion for elementary and secondary; $23 billion for universities; $4 billion in a Governors Emergency Education Relief Fund; and about $1 billion to Native American schools.
The legislation also includes a $300 per week federal unemployment benefit which would expire on March 14, 2021, potentially setting up a showdown between President-elect Biden and congressional Republicans on whether to extend it. The provision will cost the taxpayers $120 billion.
In addition, the bill contains $284 billion in funding for the popular Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which helped businesses through government lockdowns earlier this year that could be reimposed as COVID-19 cases surge. The bill makes PPP loans tax exempt, and includes an additional $41 billion for other small-business programs.
Lawmakers also reached an agreement on the powers of the Federal Reserve. According to Senator Pat Toomey, R-Pa., the compromise repurposes unused funds, shuts down certain Fed lending facilites and prevents them from being reopened, and prevents the Fed from creating "clone" facilities.
The bill also allocates $30 billion for coronavirus vaccine procurement, distribution and a stockpile of vaccines, $22 billion on testing and contact-tracing efforts, $9 billion in aid for healthcare providers and $4.5 billion aimed at mental health efforts.
The sweeping bill also contains $25 billion in rental assistance, $15 billion for theaters and other live venues, $82 billion for local schools, colleges and universities, and $10 billion for child care.
The package also carries numerous clean-energy provisions sought by Democrats with fossil fuel incentives favored by Republicans, $7 billion to increase access to broadband, $4 billion to help other nations vaccinate their people, $14 billion for cash-starved transit systems, $1 billion for Amtrak and $2 billion for airports and concessionaires.
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In addition, Congress is set to vote on a $1.4 trillion measure to fund the government through Sept. 30. The shutdown would take effect at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.
The Senate Historical Office said the previous record for the length of legislation was the 2,847-page tax reform bill of 1986 — about one-half the size of Monday’s behemoth.
Fox News' Tyler Olson, Jason Donner, Chad Pergram, Sha Smith, Ben Florance and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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