House and Senate leaders reach agreement on new $900 billion pandemic relief package
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced late Sunday that congressional leaders have now reached agreement on an end-of-year pandemic relief package. While the details are still being inked, the agreement will reportedly include $600 per person stimulus checks, extended unemployment benefits of up to $300 per week, and an extension of small business loans aimed at keeping payrolls intact despite pandemic restrictions. While school aid is included, other details remain unclear. Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced earlier that the agreement will not include Republican demands to curtail the Federal Reserve's ability to provide crisis funding to individual states and cities.
Congress will approve a one-day deal to avoid an evening government shutdown, and is to vote on the packaged relief and yearly government spending bill on Monday. The total is said to rise to over $2 trillion in funding.
The deal follows nine months of refusals by Sen. Mitch McConnell to allow additional pandemic aid, repeatedly blocking bills with his own poison-pill demands that businesses be provided immunity from liability for exposing either customers or employees to COVID-19; according to Sen. Schumer, that demand is not included in the agreed-to package.
In the end, the deciding factor in favor of the deal may have been the Senate runoff elections in Georgia. After blocking near-identical aid proposals all summer and fall, in recent days McConnell had reportedly expressed to his caucus that he wanted to move forward with pandemic relief so as to boost Republican chances of keeping the Senate.
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