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There is a lot of news about the $900 billion COVID relief package passed by Congress on 12/21/2020. There is less news about the $1.4 trillion spending bill that was passed. However, a lot of people out there seem to be mixing up the two, with people saying things like the “$900 billion COVID relief bill contains all this money for foreign assistance, funding wildlife programs, etc.” However, the best I can tell, those budget items are separate from COVID relief; they are part of the omnibus bill.

Is there only one piece of legislation that was passed in congress? Or 2 separate things, that were tied together based on agreements that neither would pass unless both were passed? Is COVID relief simply a small part of the same omnibus spending bill, or is it a separate bill? If it all one thing, why is $900 billion being talked about as an amount of money, when the actual bill is for much more spending than that?

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Yes, it is just one piece of legislation

On December 21, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (CAA) – a single legislative vehicle for a long-awaited COVID-related fiscal relief package, an omnibus appropriations act, and a tax extenders package.

The stimulus itself is in division M and N of the CAA 2021.

The somewhat odd thing about its passing through Congress is that the HoR pass it by holding two votes on separate parts of it. But the Senate only used one vote.

The bill was split into two parts in the House, with one portion passing 327–85 and another portion 359–53. The first vote, which included funding for federal agencies, was opposed by 41 Democrats and 43 Republicans. The stimulus portion was in the latter vote, and was supported by Democrats by a 230–2 margin and Republicans by a 128–50 margin (two independents made up the rest). Following that, there was a single vote in the Senate, which passed 92–6.

The most significant implication is that Trump (who has now threatened to veto the CAA) cannot veto any part of it individually, but only the whole CAA.

The reasons why the $900 billion is (sometimes) being discussed separately is that it's uncommon for an appropriations bill to include something like this, or at least something of this size. It was also the subject of intense negotiations for months.

Now, Trump and some of his fans actually have relied on the fact that this is a single legislative vehicle to contrast and criticize foreign aid and domestic "pork" spending with the (size of the) checks that the stimulus bill is going to give out.

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  • With the House vote split in 2; did it require both votes to pass for the bill to pass? – GendoIkari Dec 24 '20 at 17:17
  • @GendoIkari: I think so. – Fizz Dec 24 '20 at 17:37

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