WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump on Tuesday called for lawmakers to amend the $900 billion pandemic relief package that was passed by Congress on Monday, which was set to deliver long-sought cash to businesses and individuals and resources to vaccinate a nation confronting a frightening surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths.
Trump, in a video posted to Twitter, called on Congress to increase the $600 stimulus payments contained in the bill to $2,000 per person, or $4,000 for married couples.
The Senate cleared the massive package by a 92-6 vote after the House approved the COVID-19 package by another lopsided vote, 359-53. Lawmakers tacked on a $1.4 trillion catchall spending bill and thousands of pages of other end-of-session business in a massive bundle of bipartisan legislation as Capitol Hill prepared to close the books on the year.
The passage came after months of politicking and partisanship as lawmakers wrangled over the relief question, a logjam that broke after President-elect Joe Biden urged his party to accept a compromise with top Republicans that is smaller than many Democrats would have liked.
The bill combines coronavirus-fighting funds with financial relief for individuals and businesses. It establishes a temporary $300 per week supplemental jobless benefit and a $600 direct stimulus payment to most Americans, along with a new round of subsidies for hard-hit businesses, restaurants, and theaters and money for schools, health care providers and renters facing eviction.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, a key negotiator, said on CNBC Monday that the direct $600 stimulus payments would begin arriving in bank accounts next week. American adults who earn less than $75,000 will receive the full $600 check, while couples who earn less than $150,000 will receive $1,200, with payments phased out for higher incomes.
An additional $600 payment will be made per dependent child, similar to the last round of relief payments in the spring.
The 5,593-page legislation — by far the longest bill ever — came together Sunday after months of battling, posturing and postelection negotiating that reined in a number of Democratic demands as the end of the congressional session approached.
Biden was eager for a deal to deliver long-awaited help to suffering people and a boost to the economy, even though it was less than half the size that Democrats wanted in the fall.
"This deal is not everything I want — not by a long shot," said Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., a longstanding voice in the party’s old-school liberal wing. "The choice before us is simple. It’s about whether we help families or not. It’s about whether we help small businesses and restaurants or not. It’s about whether we boost (food stamp) benefits and strengthen anti-hunger programs or not. And whether we help those dealing with a job loss or not. To me, this is not a tough call."
Democrats promised more aid to come once Biden takes office, but Republicans were signaling a wait-and-see approach.
The measure would fund the government through September, wrapping a year's worth of action on annual spending bills into a single package that never saw Senate committee or floor debate.
The final bill bore ample resemblance to a $1 trillion package put together by Senate Republican leaders in July, a proposal that at the time was scoffed at by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as way too little.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., took a victory lap after blocking far more ambitious legislation from reaching the Senate floor. He said the pragmatic approach of Biden was key.
"The president-elect suggesting that we needed to do something now was helpful in moving both Pelosi and Schumer into a better place," McConnell told The Associated Press. "My view about what comes next is let's take a look at it. Happy to evaluate that based upon the needs that we confront in February and March."
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, D-Calif., came to the Senate to cast her vote for the bill. "The American people need relief and I want to be able to do what I can to help them," she said.
The $300 per week bonus jobless benefit was half the supplemental federal unemployment benefit provided under the $1.8 billion CARES Act in March. That more generous benefit and would be limited to 11 weeks instead of 16 weeks. The direct $600 stimulus payment was also half the March payment.
The CARES Act was credited with keeping the economy from falling off a cliff during widespread lockdowns in the spring, but Republicans controlling the Senate cited debt concerns in pushing against Democratic demands.
"Anyone who thinks this bill is enough hasn’t heard the desperation in the voices of their constituents, has not looked into the eyes of the small-business owner on the brink of ruin," said Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, a lifelong New Yorker who pushed hard for money helping his city's transit systems, renters, theaters and restaurants.
Republicans were most intent on reviving the Paycheck Protection Program with $284 billion, which would cover a second round of PPP grants to especially hard-hit businesses. Democrats won set-asides for low-income and minority communities.
The sweeping bill also contains $25 billion in rental assistance, $15 billion for theaters and other live venues, $82 billion for local schools, colleges and universities, and $10 billion for child care.
This story was reported from Cincinnati. The Associated Press contributed.