Senate leaders and the Trump administration reached agreement early Wednesday on a $2 trillion stimulus package to rescue the economy from the coronavirus assault, potentially setting the stage for swift passage of the massive legislation through both chambers of Congress.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are done. We have a deal,” White House legislative affairs director Eric Ueland told reporters around 1 a.m.
The package would extend extraordinary taxpayer assistance to potentially millions of American and companies that have been hammered by the fast-moving economic crisis. The bill is being rushed through Congress without public hearings or formal review, and it’s unclear how effective the measures would be in arresting the economy’s sudden fall.
The Senate bill would direct payments of $1,200 to most American adults and $500 to most children, create a $500 billion lending program for companies, states, and cities, and extend an additional $367 billion to help small companies deal with payroll problems. It would bolster the unemployment insurance system and pump $150 billion into U.S. hospitals. The bill more than doubled in size in just a few days.
The delay in finalizing a deal came, in part, because aides launched a painstaking scrub of the bill’s text, to make sure that one of the most ambitious pieces of legislation ever attempted by Congress — thrown together in little over a week — actually said what lawmakers wanted it to say.
Senate Republicans were being extra meticulous because they felt an earlier and much smaller coronavirus relief bill, which Mnuchin negotiated in a rush with Pelosi earlier this month, turned out to have provisions related to paid sick leave that GOP senators opposed – but which they reluctantly accepted. Now, they wanted to double- and triple-check Mnuchin’s work in brokering a deal with Schumer given the enormous stakes.
As lawmakers neared a deal, the White House made a significant concession to Democrats’ demands, agreeing to allow enhanced scrutiny over the massive loan program that is a centerpiece of the Senate’s $2 trillion coronavirus economic package.
This pertains to the $500 billion loan and loan guarantee program that the Treasury Department would be tasked with administering for companies, states, and cities. Of that amount, $425 billion is supposed to go to businesses, cities and states. An additional $50 billion would go to passenger airlines, as well as $8 billion for cargo airlines, and $17 billion for firms that are deemed important to national security.
But during closed-door negotiations on Capitol Hill, White House officials agreed to allow an independent inspector general and an oversight board to scrutinize the lending decisions, senators said.
The legislation would also significantly boost unemployment insurance, expanding eligibility and offering workers an additional $600 a week for four months, on top of what state unemployment programs pay.