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Congress finally wrapped up an agreement on a new COVID relief package to boost a flagging US economy. But despite a last-minute unusual team-up from the left and right pushing for larger direct payments to American adults, lawmakers settled on sending checks of just $600 — which is just half of $1,200 each adult American received in the last stimulus round.
The new $900 billion COVID relief package funds the government through next September, it provides out COVID aid, it extends unemployment benefits, it places a moratorium on evictions for a month, and many Americans score $600 stimulus checks.
“We also have in the legislation direct payments, which were not in the Republican bill, to America’s working families,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “I would like them to have been bigger, but they are significant, and they will be going out soon.”
The amount of those direct checks was not only the subject of controversy, but one of Capitol Hill’s stranger bedfellows fighting for higher payments, uniting progressive independent Sen Bernie Sanders of Vermont and conservative Republican Sen Josh Hawley of Missouri.
“This is not a radical idea. This is an approach that President Trump is supporting. This is an approach that President-elect Biden is supporting. This is an approach that, according to a recent poll, is supported by 75 percent of all Americans, including 77 percent of Democrats and 72 percent of Republicans,” Sanders said, adding, referring to the $1,200 payments approved in March, “Further, importantly, this amount of direct payment is exactly what Congress passed unanimously nine months ago as part of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act.”
Watch Sen Sanders’ full statement here, including him taking on Sen Ron Johnson’s opposition to further direct payments for Americans.
Meanwhile, Hawley, a freshman member who typically toes a conservative line, made common cause with Sanders to argue for direct payments larger than $600.
Hawley called the $600 figure agreed to “hardly adequate.”
Watch Hawley’s full statement here.
Meanwhile, outgoing Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin promised that Americans should begin to see their $600 checks promptly.
“Well, we’re definitely in a much better position and there’s no question the first bill, the CARES Act is the reason why we’re here today and the economy has continued to rebound but as you and I have talked about before, there are still parts of the economy that are particularly hard hit,” Mnuchin said. “As you know, we’ve been working on for months additional money for those parts of the economy and we couldn’t be more pleased that we got this done in time for the end of the year.”
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