Senate leaders reach accord on historic $2T stimulus bill

By Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver

Senate and Trump administration negotiators reached agreement early this morning on a $2 trillion stimulus package aimed at blunting the economic impact of the coronavirus on the U.S. economy and families, clearing a path for swift passage today.

The House is expected to approve the measure by unanimous consent following a Senate vote, potentially putting the largest stimulus measure in American history on the president’s desk this week following days of detailed wrangling. President Trump has said he will sign it.

“Help is on the way,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced.

McConnell’s remarks early today followed round-the-clock negotiations that included Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin since last week (The Hill). 

“At last, we have a deal,” McConnell said at 1:37 a.m. He said the bill would inject “trillions of dollars” into the economy “as fast as possible.” “This is a wartime level of investment in our nation. … The American people are already rising to this grave challenge and the Senate is about to follow suit.” 

The Washington Post: Senate, White House reach $2 trillion stimulus deal to blunt coronavirus fallout. 

The Associated Press: U.S. stimulus agreement lifts world markets.

Eric Ueland, the president’s legislative affairs director, told reporters the hope is to complete the text of the bill and circulate it to senators early today (CNN).  

In remarks on the floor, Schumer hailed the stimulus as an “outstanding agreement” and pointed to key provisions sought by Democrats to help families.  

“We believe the legislation has been improved significantly,” Schumer said. 

The gargantuan economic aid package would give $1,200 to Americans who earn up to $75,000, creating a $500 billion fund to help struggling industries and a $367 billion loan program for small businesses. The bill would also extend a financial boost to hospitals and the healthcare system and provide four months of unemployment insurance to workers furloughed because of the coronavirus. 

The legislation creates an inspector general and oversight committee for the corporate assistance program, modeled on the Troubled Asset Relief Program enacted more than a decade ago, according to one senior administration official.

It would also provide $25 billion in direct financial aid to airlines and $4 billion to air cargo carriers, two industries that have taken a big hit in the economic downturn. If airlines accept a federal grant or a loan, they would have to agree to restrictions on executive compensation and stock buybacks (The Hill).

The deal came together in the aftermath of arduous negotiations. Senate Democrats twice blocked votes to start debate. On Monday, Schumer and Mnuchin met at least five times and kept working until midnight, resuming on Tuesday.

House members, most of whom are not in Washington this week, are expected to vote via unanimous consent after the Senate takes up the mammoth measure (The Hill).

“I can’t speak for the Speaker, I hope she takes it up and she passes it as is,” Mnuchin said of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) the House (Roll Call).

On Tuesday, Trump said he wants to restart the virus-halted economy by Easter, April 12. Speaking during a Fox News interview program from the Rose Garden, the president urged senators to quickly wrap up the relief bill and he effusively thanked lawmakers of both parties for their work.  

Trump said he’s eager to move beyond the pandemic. “I would love to have the country opened up, and just raring to go, by Easter,” he said. “I gave it two weeks. … We can socially distance ourselves and go to work” (The Hill).  

Most people think I’m right,” he added. “Our people want it open” (The Associated Press).  

Anticipation of congressional action, coupled with Federal Reserve intervention this week, helped propel the Dow Jones Industrial Average on Tuesday to the largest rebound seen since 1933 (CNBC).  

The Hill: Democratic congressional leaders forecast at least two more coronavirus relief bills. 

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