House Democrats pass $900 billion stimulus plan with direct payments and federal unemployment benefits, clearing the way for a Senate vote

  • House Democrats approved the $900 billion stimulus agreement, sending it to a vote in the Senate.
  • The package contains $600 stimulus checks and $300 federal weekly unemployment benefits among other measures like small business aid and funds for vaccine distribution.
  • The $900 billion package is just under half of the spending level that Democrats wanted before the election, and they say will press for more federal aid once Biden takes office.
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House Democrats passed the long-awaited $900 billion stimulus plan, sending it to the Republican-controlled Senate for a vote on Monday evening.

The 5,593-page bill was passed overwhelmingly 359 to 53.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said earlier on Monday morning that she supported the package, but wanted additional aid spending once President-elect Joe Biden takes office in January.

"I look forward to a strong bipartisan vote today on this legislation," Pelosi said. "Respecting it for what it does, not judging it for what it does not. But recognizing that more needs to be done."

Passage in the House sends it to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will put it on the floor for a vote. It's expected to pass. Congressional leaders are operating on a swift timetable, seeking to merge the relief package with a $1.4 trillion government funding bill and pass them before midnight Monday, the new deadline for federal funding to lapse.

Lawmakers had little time to review the massive piece of legislation once it was introduced early Monday afternoon.

The rescue package would direct hundreds of billions of dollars into many sectors of the economy. Unemployed Americans will see an extra $300 from the federal government tacked onto their unemployment checks until mid-March. It also includes $600 stimulus checks will be sent to millions of Americans. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said many Americans will start receiving those payments early next week.

Read more: $600 checks for most people, help for entertainment venues, airlines and public transit. Here's what else is in the $900 billion stimulus the House just passed.

The package also contains $284 billion in small business aid and $45 billion in federal funds for transportation. Meanwhile, the government funding bill would cover federal agencies through September 2021, and it also includes a bevy of tax breaks for businesses next year.

The legislation, though, is a significant step down from the amount of spending Democrats once sought. The chamber approved a sweeping $3.4 trillion stimulus package in May called the HEROES Act, but Republicans dismissed it outright.

Then, in October, House Democrats passed a $2.2 trillion relief bill to kickstart stalled negotiations with Republicans. It ultimately went nowhere. But Pelosi drew criticism from some Democrats for rejecting the Trump administration's $1.8 trillion stimulus offer. Her defenders argue Senate Republicans would never have supported a plan with a large price tag.

After Biden's election, Democrats embraced a $908 billion relief plan unveiled by a bipartisan group of moderate senators. It was later whittled down to a $748 billion piece of legislation, which Democrats increased to its current level of $900 billion by backing the addition of stimulus payments.

But they set aside one of their key priorities in the final rescue legislation, aid to states and municipalities struggling with large budget shortfalls. In exchange, Republicans dropped their demand for a liability shield to insulate businesses from virus-related lawsuits. Both parties will likely seek to address both of those measures early next year.

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