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US Congress unveils $2.3 tn government spending, Covid-19 relief package

The US Congress unveiled a $2.3 trillion spending package hours before it is expected for a passage in both chambers, funding the government through the end of the fiscal year

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US | Coronavirus | US economy

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The Congress on Monday (local time) unveiled a USD 2.3 trillion spending package hours before it is expected for a passage in both chambers, funding the government through the end of the fiscal year and providing relief to a coronavirus-battered

According to The Hill, the package is inclusive of a USD 1.4 trillion omnibus bill based on a 2019 spending deal, which consists of USD 740.5 billion in defense spending and USD 664.5 billion for domestic programs.

The package is also inclusive of USD 900 billion COVID-19 relief bill -- which Congress agreed over the weekend.

"The combined $2.3 trillion package is among the largest spending bills ever considered by Congress and follows the $2.2 trillion CARES Act passed in late March. While the COVID-19 relief bill focuses on extending unemployment, providing stimulus checks and boosting small businesses, the omnibus includes a broader set of policy issues, such as transportation, agriculture, health, homeland security and foreign operations," The Hill reported.

"As I prepare to depart the House after 32 years of service, I could not be more pleased that we are concluding this Congress with a bipartisan agreement to provide the certainty of full-year funding for all of government and urgently-needed relief to save lives and livelihoods," said outgoing House Appropriations Committee Chair Nita Lowey (Democrat -New York), the first woman to lead the panel.

The package includes a 3 percent pay raise for the military and a 1 percent pay raise for the civilian federal workforce. The American daily further reported that the National Institutes of Health would receive a USD 1.25 billion boost, raising the budget to USD 42.9 billion, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would get a USD 125 million boost, to USD 7.9 billion.

"The omnibus also included $1.375 billion for 56 miles of President (Donald) Trump's border wall, an issue that has become a central obstacle in passing spending legislation during his presidency. That is the same amount approved last year, though President-elect Joe Biden is not expected to use billions in emergency defense funds to bolster the project like Trump has," The Hill reported.

The omnibus (bill)does not include "Democratic language" that would have blocked Trump's executive order lifting protections for civil servants and helping political appointees to remain in government posts after (Joe) Biden takes office.

Even though the bill does not include "sweeping police reforms" House Democrats approved following George Floyd's killing in late May, the bill does provide USD 5 million to create a database to track police misconduct, and USD 153 million for programs to better community relations with police -- which is a a 77 percent increase from the fiscal year 2020.

With regard to taxes, Congress included provisions that make it easier to receive earned-income and child tax credits while allowing "businesses to write off 100 per cent of business meals instead of the current 50 per cent"

The American media outlet further reported that the bill's unveiling on Monday afternoon gave little time for lawmakers, advocacy groups and constituents to see what's in the final text before Congress votes on the measure. The timing drew criticism from across the political spectrum. Problems with uploading and printing the 5,593-page bill delayed its release further.

"5,600 pages. Votes are still expected today on this legislation. No one will be able to read it all in its entirety. Special interests win. Americans lose," Rep. Andy Biggs, the head of the conservative House Freedom Caucus tweeted.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez expressed a similar sentiment. "Congress need to see & read the bills we are expected to vote on.I know it's "controversial" & I get in trouble for sharing things like this, but the people of this country deserve to know. They deserve better," she tweeted.

The bill 'largely' rejects a spending proposal from Trump which would would have enacted significant cuts across federal agencies like the State Department and Environmental Protection Agency and institutions such as the National Institutes for Health, National Science Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts.

"This bill drives the final stake through the heart of the Trump Administration's effort to substantially diminish the role of government in helping Americans in need and promoting economic growth," said Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy.

Congress has roundly rejected the spending cuts Trump proposed in each year of his presidency, The Hill reported.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Tue, December 22 2020. 10:40 IST
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