US Congress approves $900bn stimulus package


The US Congress voted late on Monday to approve a stimulus package worth nearly $900bn, paving the way for the second-largest economic relief bill in American history.

The Republican-controlled Senate approved the legislation 92-6 after months of negotiations over the economic relief package, which was tied to a wider appropriations bill to fund the federal government.

The House of Representatives, which is controlled by Democrats, voted 359-53 to approve the measure earlier in the evening.

The spending bill, spanning nearly 5,600 pages, was first published just hours before the vote on Monday afternoon, after congressional leaders from both parties struck a last-minute deal late on Sunday following a final push to reach agreement before Congress adjourns for the holidays.

The bill will now be sent to the White House to be signed into law by President Donald Trump.

The economic relief package includes nearly $300bn in small business relief; a new round of direct payments of up to $600 for American adults; and a $300 per-week top-up in unemployment insurance until mid-March, among dozens of other provisions.

Steven Mnuchin, the US Treasury secretary, told CNBC on Monday that direct payments could be in Americans’ bank accounts before the end of the year.

“The good news is this is a very, very fast way of getting money into the economy . . . people are going to see this money at the beginning of next week,” he said.

The $2.2tn Cares Act, passed in March at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, included direct payments of up to $1,200 for US adults. Many Democrats and a handful of Republicans had tried to push for at least the same amount this time round.

Democrats had spent much of this year calling for a larger relief package, but for months failed to reach agreement with Republicans, who largely insisted on more targeted relief.

In a letter to Democratic members of Congress on Monday evening, Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House, said they should shift their attention to securing another round of relief in the new year.

“While we have recognised the urgent need for resources to crush the virus so we can open our economy and schools safely, we must also recognise that more needs to be done,” Mrs Pelosi wrote, repeating calls for more funding for cash-strapped state and local governments.

“We advance this bill today as a first step,” she added. “We have new hope which springs from the vaccine and from the commitment president-elect Biden has to following science.”

Joe Biden, the president-elect, will be sworn in as the 46th US president on January 20. While the Democrats held on to the House in the elections on November 3, control of the Senate remains up for grabs, and will be decided by two run-offs being held on January 5.

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