The bill will also contain an estimated $1.4 trillion to fund government agencies and programs.
The package is the most significant coronavirus-related legislation that is anticipated to be approved by both the House and Senate since the $2 trillion CARES Act and subsequent $483 billion “Paycheck Protection Program” (PPP) expansion.
House Democrats passed a $3 trillion coronavirus aid package dubbed the “HEROES Act” in May, but the measure was opposed by Republicans and never voted on in the Senate.
For months, the two parties were at a stalemate in negotiations over further aid.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) pushed for liability protections to be included in the legislation to protect businesses and organizations from frivolous lawsuits regarding the contraction of COVID-19, but that was dropped from negotiations along with funding for state and local governments, which Democrats called for.
Like the CARES Act, the package has sweeping provisions that range from direct financial aid to individuals to extended unemployment benefits to the procurement and distribution of a vaccine.
Major provisions of the coronavirus relief section of the bill include:
- $325 billion in aid to small businesses, including $284 billion to extend forgivable loans through the PPP;
- $166 billion for $600 stimulus checks to be sent directly to individuals;
- $120 billion for enhanced unemployment benefits of $300 per week through March 14;
- $82 billion in education grants, including $54 billion for public K-12 schools;
- $20 billion for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines;
- and $9 billion for vaccine distribution.
Until Monday afternoon, the same day that lawmakers are anticipated to vote on the legislation, the full text of the bill had not been published.
Even most members of Congress had yet to see any of the 5,600-page bill until its public release.
Asked if they had received the text or a breakdown of its provisions, a congressional staff member told The Texan that their office had not and that they were “trying to piece it together from press reports.”
In a rare moment of agreement, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX-21) concurred with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) in disdain at the late release of the negotiated agreement before a vote.
“It’s not good enough to hear about what’s in the bill. Members of Congress need to see & read the bills we are expected to vote on,” said Ocasio-Cortez.
Roy said that he “could not agree more.”
“AOC is right,” tweeted Cruz. “It’s ABSURD to have a $2.5 trillion spending bill negotiated in secret and then—hours later—demand an up-or-down vote on a bill nobody has had time to read.”
Though several expressed frustration at the process of having most Congress members vote on legislation that they have not had ample opportunity to read, leadership in both parties have recommended a vote in favor of the legislation and a majority is expected to concur.
Both Republicans and Democrats have indicated support for the legislation.
Shortly after a negotiation agreement was announced, Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX-33) said that the legislation was “far from perfect and we can’t view this as the last stimulus package we work on together.”
“I look forward to joining my colleagues to pass this bipartisan piece of legislation later this week and will continue to work with the incoming Administration to build on this–because the lives and livelihoods of Americans are on the line,” said Veasey.
Throughout Monday, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX-08) tweeted out support for the massive bill, listing details about its provisions.
Democrats in the House Rules Committee approved a rule on Monday that would provide for the defense portions of the bill to be considered in a vote separate from the other portions of the omnibus, reportedly to appease concerns from progressive members about funding Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
On Monday evening, the House of Representatives passed the defense portion of the omnibus in a 327-85 vote and passed the non-defense portion in a 359-53 vote.
All Democrats in the Texas delegation voted in favor of the non-defense portion, which included the $900 billion of funding for coronavirus relief, but Reps. Joaquin Castro (D-TX-20), Henry Cuellar (D-TX-28), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX-35), Veronica Escobar (D-TX-16), and Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX-15) voted against the defense portion.
On the Republican side, Reps. Brian Babin (R-TX-36), Michael Cloud (R-TX-27), Louie Gohmert (R-TX-01), Lance Gooden (R-TX-05), Chip Roy (R-TX-21), Van Taylor (R-TX-03), and Randy Weber (R-TX-14) opposed the omnibus legislation in both votes.
Reps. Michael Burgess (R-TX-26) and Mike Conaway (R-TX-11) voted against the non-defense portion, but voted for the defense portion.
Except for Reps. John Carter (R-TX-31), Kenny Marchant (R-TX-24), and Ron Wright (R-TX-06), who did not vote on Monday, all other House Republicans in the Texas delegation voted for both portions of the bill.
Update: This article was updated to include the vote results in the House of Representatives.
Disclosure: Unlike almost every other media outlet, The Texan is not beholden to any special interests, does not apply for any type of state or federal funding, and relies exclusively on its readers for financial support. If you’d like to become one of the people we’re financially accountable to, click here to subscribe.
Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.