Minnesota's congressional delegation got quickly behind a $900 billion pandemic relief package Monday that includes assistance payments to Americans and support for stepped-up vaccinations.
"It's long-overdue relief to families and businesses," said U.S. Sen. Tina Smith. "This is going to help states deliver the vaccine, to do the testing they need to do."
Smith was joined by Minnesota lawmakers from both parties in supporting the package.
The House overwhelmingly passed the relief package Monday night, and the Senate followed suit later in the evening.
"My priority remains getting Minnesota families direct financial relief," U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Democrat, said in a news release that affirmed her plan to vote for the relief package, which is part of a massive government funding and policy bill.
U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn, a Republican from southern Minnesota, said it "would go a long way" to helping businesses, individuals and the health care system.
Rep. Collin Peterson, a Democrat who lost in November and is leaving Congress next month, also publicly backed the legislation.
Omar joined with other progressives to push for direct relief to Americans, and she noted there was little support just weeks ago for a second round of direct assistance checks.
But the final deal struck Sunday included a plan for $600 payments to most individuals.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar also expressed support for the congressional compromise, which includes a provision she has championed to distribute $15 billion in assistance to music venues and performance spaces.
"We must work to pass this package as quickly as possible, and push for more aid in the New Year," said Klobuchar, a Democrat.
The relief package includes another round of PPP loans to businesses and more money for unemployment benefits, which will free the state to use federal resources for an unemployment extension that state lawmakers approved last week. It has spending for vaccine distribution and major assistance for renters.
Smith noted the final package includes legislation she has pushed to end the practice of surprise medical billing.
Another provision Smith sought, targeted relief for loggers, was also included, she said.
The framework for the congressional deal on COVID relief originated with efforts by a bipartisan group of lawmakers that included Rep. Dean Phillips, the Democrat from Minnesota's Third District.
Phillips has been critical of a process he says is too driven by legislative leaders, and on Monday he complained on Twitter about being given only hours to read the massive relief, government spending and policy bill.
"Here are the 5,593 pages of language which I'm now perusing and on which we'll be voting in about six hours," Phillips tweeted.
Phillips said the final deal has many good features but said the direct payments should have been higher and there should have been more targeted relief for hard-hit types of businesses.
He also bemoaned the lack of direct assistance to state and local governments.
"Now that there's a vaccine, we need an antidote for the culture of Congress that makes things so hard, take so long, and reduces Americans' faith in government," Phillips tweeted.
Patrick Condon • 612-673-4413