Senate Passes Virus Relief, Sends Bill to Trump: Congress Update

(Bloomberg) — The Senate passed the massive year-end legislation combining $900 billion in pandemic relief with $1.4 trillion to fund federal agencies through fiscal 2021.

© Bloomberg The U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Dec. 18, 2020. Congress is facing down a midnight deadline to pass a pandemic relief measure as part of a massive government spending bill or rush through another stopgap to keep the government funded through at least the weekend while talks continue.

The Senate’s 92-6 vote sends the bill to President Donald Trump to sign into law. The House passed the legislation earlier Monday night.

The total bill is worth more than $2.3 trillion, including support for small businesses impacted by the pandemic, $600 payments for most individuals, supplemental unemployment insurance, regular funding for federal agencies and a bevy of tax breaks for companies.

Other Developments:

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Agency Funding Lapses Waiting for Trump to Sign (12:22 a.m.)

Government funding technically lapsed after midnight Monday when the last stopgap spending measure expired. Trump is expected to sign a seven-day continuing resolution to temporarily fund the government while he waits for the the final year-end bill, which includes annual appropriations through September, to reach his desk.

Senate Passes Stopgap to Give Trump Time to Sign (10:55 p.m.)

The Senate passed a one-week continuing resolution funding the government to allow enough time for the stimulus and massive spending bill to be printed and prepared, and for Trump to sign the year-end package.

Current government funding would expire at midnight without another stopgap spending measure.

House Passes Virus Relief and Spending Bill (9:12 p.m.)

The year-end legislation combining $900 billion in pandemic relief with $1.4 trillion in regular government funding cleared the House and now moves on to the Senate.

The House passed the combined bill on two votes: 327-85 for the defense and homeland spending part and 359-53 for the rest of the measure.

House Sets Up Vote on Virus and Spending (6:15 p.m.)

The House passed a measure to set up the vote on final passage of the combined bill later Monday night.

Because of the time needed for the Senate to vote and enroll the lengthy legislation on parchment paper so that Trump can sign it, the House included a seven-day stopgap spending bill as a backup measure to prevent a government shutdown if the process can’t be completed Monday.

The government currently is operating on temporary funding that expires after midnight Monday.

The Senate has not yet indicated when it would pass the stopgap bill, but it could do so quickly if no senator objects.

Virus Relief Bill Released Hours Before Vote (1:50 p.m.)

A House committee released the text of $900 billion in pandemic relief and $1.4 trillion in government funding just hours before lawmakers are supposed to begin voting on the combined bill.

A link to the legislation is here.

After resolving a months-long stalemate over the relief package, it was delayed Monday by a corrupt computer file that prevented it from being uploaded for distribution.

Congressional leaders say they expect the massive package to pass, and the White House has said President Donald Trump will sign it into law. The House will be the first vote as soon as Monday, followed by the Senate.

“We’re going to stay here until we finish tonight,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters at the Capitol.

‘Glitch’ Holding Up Release of Relief Bill (1:30 p.m.)

Video: Rep. Clyburn calls for special commission on Trump administration’s COVID response (MSNBC)

Rep. Clyburn calls for special commission on Trump administration’s COVID response
What to watch next

Release of a massive package of legislation for pandemic relief, along with funding for the government, was delayed Monday by a corrupt computer file that prevented it from being uploaded.

“This is a huge project, bigger than anything we have done in the time that I have been here, and unfortunately it’s a bad time to have a computer glitch,” Republican Senator John Thune said. “All hands are on deck to fix it.”

The House and Senate are aiming to pass the relief measures and the legislation to fund regular government operations by Monday night. Thune told reporters he didn’t know if the delay would mean the Senate might miss a midnight deadline to pass a spending bill before the current one-day funding measure runs out.

Earlier in the day printing delays stymied Congress as it prepared to introduce what may turn out to be the longest bill in page length ever voted on, according to a congressional aide.

Lawmakers have spent months haggling over the pandemic aid proposal and now are rushing to finish work before they break for the year. — Erik Wasson

McConnell Says Senate Will Pass Relief Tonight (12:45 p.m.)

With lawmakers still awaiting the text of a massive pandemic relief bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate will vote on the legislation by Monday night.

“We’re going to stay here until we finish tonight,” McConnell told reporters at the Capitol.

After congressional leaders agreed on the outlines of the bill, lawmakers and staff members have been working to turn it into legislative text. Along with the task of writing the bill, release was delayed slightly Monday by printing of its lengthy text, according to a congressional aide.

Congress will have only hours before it votes after the legislation is released. — Erik Wasson

Democrats to Seek Revision of Fed Limits (11:05 a.m.)

The Democratic head of the House Financial Services Committee said Congress will revisit a portion of the pandemic relief bill dealing with the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending authority if her party gains control of the Senate.

“I don’t like the way the language has ended up,” said Representative Maxine Waters, a Democrat from California.

Waters said Congress should rework a provision in the stimulus bill authored by Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and backed by other Republicans that would prohibit the Fed from restarting programs supporting corporate bonds, small and mid-sized companies, and municipalities, which are set to expire on Dec. 31.

The language was one of the last big holdups before an agreement on the relief plan was struck. Democrats agreed to a compromise that deleted language from Toomey’s proposal banning “similar” programs from ever being launched without congressional approval. While that allowed the broader measure to go forward, it didn’t fully resolve differences in how Republicans and Democrats view the Fed’s emergency lending authority.

Waters said the outcome of the runoffs for both of the Georgia Senate seats could determine whether there are the votes to address changing the Fed language. If Democrats manage to win both races on Jan. 5, the party would gain control of the Senate.

“The Congress of the United States can overturn that decision, and particularly if we get those two votes out of Georgia,” Waters said. “And I think we have to just overturn that decision and that language.” — Daniel Flatley

Mnuchin Says Stimulus Checks to Start Going Out Next Week (9:32 a.m.)

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Monday that $600 stimulus checks could start going out to Americans as soon as next week.

“There are still parts of the economy that are particularly hard hit” by fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, Mnuchin said on CNBC. But the coming round of Covid-19 relief Congress is expected to approve Monday should be enough to address the difficulties, he said.

“I think this will take us through the recovery,” he said. “This is a large bill and has a little bit of everything for everybody.”

The roughly $900 billion pandemic relief plan, along with the government spending bill, is set to get votes in the House and Senate Monday, and congressional leaders say they expect it to pass. The White House said President Donald Trump would sign it.

Virginia Removes Robert E. Lee Statue from U.S. Capitol (7:59)

Virginia lawmakers announced Monday a statue of Confederate leader Robert E. Lee had been removed from the U.S. Capitol and would no longer be used to represent that state’s history there.

“We should all be proud of this important step forward for our Commonwealth and our country,” Governor Ralph Northam said in a statement. “The Confederacy is a symbol of Virginia’s racist and divisive history, and it is past time we tell our story with images of perseverance, diversity, and inclusion.”

Each state is entitled to display two statues in the National Statuary Hall, and Lee was chosen alongside President George Washington to represent Virginia. The Lee statue had been located in the Crypt of the Capitol, representing one of the 13 original colonies.

Earlier this year, the state’s General Assembly voted to set up a commission on the statue, which decided to replace it with one of Barbara Johns, a civil rights activist.

Various other statues of Confederates remain in the Capitol, including those of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, representing Mississippi, and his vice president, Alexander Stephens, from Georgia — the author of the “Cornerstone Speech” defending white supremacy as the founding cornerstone of the Confederacy.

President Donald Trump has threatened to veto a defense bill this week because it would begin a process to rename military bases named after Confederates.

Democrats Say More Aid Needed for Economy (2 a.m.)

Both parties claimed many of their priorities were achieved in the legislation, which will be passed along with a bill to fund regular government operations through the end of the fiscal year. But Democrats said they aren’t finished.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said he expects that a “more robust” bill will be considered after President-elect Joe Biden takes office Jan. 20. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “We are going to have a much easier time than we had with a Republican president and a Republican Senate.”

But Pelosi will have a narrower majority in the House in the next Congress, which begins on Jan. 3, and control of the Senate depends on a Jan. 5 runoff for the two Georgia seats. Democrats would need to defeat both Republican incumbents, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, to have the slimmest Senate majority.

Biden on Sunday said he applauds Congress’s bipartisan agreement, but he described the package as providing “temporary relief.”

“This action in the lame duck session is just the beginning. Our work is far from over,” Biden said in a statement including other actions his administration plans to take. “Immediately, starting in the new year, Congress will need to get to work on support for our COVID-19 plan, for support to struggling families, and investments in jobs and economic recovery.”

The roughly $900 billion pandemic relief plan, along with the government spending bill, is set to get votes in the House and Senate Monday, and congressional leaders say they expect it to pass. Trump has said he will sign it.

The bill includes help for small businesses, the jobless and direct payments to most Americans. It also provides funding for vaccine distribution, food assistance, tax breaks and money for education and child care. — Dan Flatley

(A previous version included the revised vote tally, corrected by the Senate.)

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