The White House and Senate of both parties have announced early Wednesday that they have agreed on a $2 trillion emergency bill to rush aid to businesses, workers and health care industries hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
This will be the largest economic rescue bill in history and is intended to help keep the American economy from spiraling into a recession or worse.
“To the American people, we say, big help, quick help is on the way,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Wednesday morning on CNN.
Schumer said he expected approval by the Republican-led Senate later in the day.
That would leave final congressional approval up to the Democratic-controlled House. In a written statement, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the bipartisan agreement “takes us a long way down the road in meeting the needs of the American people” but she stopped short of fully endorsing it.
“House Democrats will now review the final provisions and legislative text of the agreement to determine a course of action,” she said.
House members are scattered around the country and the timetable for votes in that chamber is unclear.
House Democratic and Republican leaders have hoped to clear the measure for President Donald Trump’s signature by a voice vote without having to call lawmakers back to Washington. But that may prove challenging, as the bill is sure to be opposed by some conservatives upset at its cost and scope. Ardent liberals were restless as well.
Top White House aide Eric Ueland announced the agreement in a Capitol hallway shortly after midnight early Wednesday, capping days of often intense haggling and mounting pressure. Some final pieces of the agreement need to be finalized in detailed legislative language.
The sprawling, 500 page-plus measure is the third coronavirus response bill produce by Congress and by far the largest, building on earlier efforts focused on vaccines and emergency response, sick and family medical leave for workers, and food aid.
It would give direct payments to most Americans, expand unemployment benefits and provide a $367 billion program for small businesses to keep making payroll while workers are forced to stay home.
One of the last issues to close concerned $500 billion for guaranteed, subsidized loans to larger industries, including a fight over how generous to be with the airlines. Hospitals would get significant help as well.
“After days of intense discussions, the Senate has reached a bipartisan agreement on a historic relief package for this pandemic,” said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a key negotiator. “It will rush new resources onto the front lines of our nation’s health care fight. And it will inject trillions of dollars of cash into the economy as fast as possible to help Americans workers, families, small businesses and industries make it through this disruption and emerge on the other side ready to soar.”
Five days of arduous talks produced the bill, creating tensions among Congress’ top leaders, who each took care to tend to party politics as they maneuvered and battled over crafting the legislation. But failure was never an option, which permitted both sides to mark big wins.
The package would give one-time direct payments to Americans — $1,200 per adult making up to $75,000 a year, and $2,400 to a married couple making up to $150,000, with $500 payments per child.
A huge cash infusion for hospitals expecting a flood of COVID-19 patients grew during the talks at Schumer’s insistence. Republicans pressed for tens of billions of dollars for additional relief to be delivered through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal disaster agency.
Democrats said the package would help replace the salaries of furloughed workers for four months, rather than the three months first proposed. Furloughed workers would get whatever amount a state usually provides for unemployment, plus a $600 per week add-on, with gig workers like Uber drivers covered for the first time.
Even before the deal was reached, news of the likely but elusive agreement had sent the stock market rocketing on Tuesday. The rescue package would be larger than the 2008 bank bailout and 2009 recovery act combined.
By ANDREW TAYLOR, LISA MASCARO and JONATHAN LEMIRE Associated Press