The plan by the White House and Senate leaders to jam through an immediate vote on a $2 trillion coronavirus bailout package came under threat Wednesday after a trio of Republican senators dug in against a provision to provide a boost unemployment insurance.
The GOP senators said unless their objections are met they won’t go along with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plan to seek unanimous approval to cut off debate on the bill.
Their opposition to the move provoked immediate pushback from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders – who said unless they back down he is prepared to stall the bailout to get new restrictions over its $500 million bailout fund.
‘In my view, it would be an outrage to prevent working class Americans to receive the emergency unemployment assistance included in this legislation,’ Sanders said in a statement. He said he was prepared to put a ‘hold’ on it if they don’t back down.
He tweeted his comment to a reporter that ‘I cannot at the last minute allow some right wing senators try to undermine the needs of workers and think they are going to get away with that.’
A group of three Republican senators claimed language in the bill mistakenly gives an incentive for some workers to lose their job because they would make more money from the government benefits than they would keeping their job.
Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Tim Scott of Florida and Ben Sasse of Nebraska released a statement Wednesday claiming they would vote against the unanimous consent measure, which could delay the fast-tracking of the relief package. Graham is a key ally of President Donald Trump.
‘A massive drafting error in the current version of the coronavirus relief legislation could have devastating consequences: Unless this bill is fixed, there is strong incentive for employees to be laid off instead of going to work,’ the statement read.
‘We must sadly oppose the fast-tracking of this bill until the text is addressed,’ it continued.
‘This bill pays you more not to work than if you were working,’ Graham told reporters.
Also joining the trio was Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, who said ‘we cannot create an incentive for people to say I don’t need to come back to work.’
The package boosts the maximum weekly unemployment benefit that states provide by $600, as economists fear a surge in layoffs linked to the coronavirus and the shuttering of U.S. businesses.
If the senators follow through on their threats, it could stall the effort for days. McConnell wants to fast-track it by getting unanimous consent from senators. Without unified support on the bipartisan deal, he would have to schedule a procedural vote wait for time to tick off the clock.
A delay might require further horse-trading, as more lawmakers and staff get the chance to pore over detailed legislative language.
McConnell said Wednesday that the Senate will pass the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package later in the day after meeting with Democrats several times in the last few days to iron out the details.
‘The Washington drama does not matter anymore. The Senate is going to stand together, act together and pass this historic relief package today,’ the Senate Majority Leader asserted Wednesday afternoon.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said that ‘once the language is ready, Democrats are ready to speed up the consideration of the bill as much as possible.’
‘I expect that the Senate can get the job done in the next few hours,’ he said from the Senate floor.
Lawmakers are hoping that third times the charm after Democrats blocked the GOP-backed bill from passing in the Senate Sunday and again on Monday when they brought what they said was a ‘partisan’ version to the floor.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that the Senate will pass the $2 trillion economic stimulus package later in the day. ‘The Washington drama does not matter anymore. The Senate is going to stand together, act together and pass this historic relief package today,’ he said from the Senate floor
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer insisted that they last few days Democrats were able to get the bill ready for passage, even though McConnell claims very few changes were made from the Sunday bill
Republican Senators Lindsey Graham (right), Ben Sasse (center) and Tim Scott (left) launched a last-minute objection to the package, claiming certain language gave incentives for employees to lose their jobs because they would make more from the government than if they kept working
‘Unless this bill is fixed, there is a strong incentive for employees to be laid off instead of going to work,’ the statement reads
Graham said, according to a CNN congressional reporter, that if the language is not a drafting error then ‘it’s the worst idea I’ve seen in a long time.’
The Senate needs unanimous consent to move the bill forward in an expedited manner.
If Graham, Sasse and Scott insist on forcing a vote on an amendment to the bill, then Congress could be forced to hold off on moving forward with the $2 trillion payout another day.
McConnell insinuated that there were little differences between the bill initially proposed on Sunday and the version that will be voted on Wednesday.
‘I will leave it to others to compare the bipartisan Sunday bill to the final version we will pass today, and determine if the last few changes really required, or merited three days of delay,’ he quipped during remarks from the Senate floor.
But Schumer pushed back in his remarks a few minutes later, claiming it was the Democrats who got the bill in shape to work for American people.
‘Help is on the way. Big help, quick help. I say to the American people, that because Democrats insisted on making this bill better, we can now call it a bill that puts workers first, not corporations,’ Schumer said from the Senate floor, adding that it ‘has a Marshall plan for hospitals, and that has accountability, transparency and watchdogs over much of the lending that is in this bill’
‘Six days of subtle diplomacy, and here in these mostly now empty corridors, we’ve shaped a bipartisan agreement on the largest rescue package in American history, which was sealed last night,’ he continued.
‘Had we not asked for the Republican Party to recognize us by not going forward on those first two votes, this bill would have been much worse. Our actions made it much better. Not everything we wants, but much, much better,’ the New York Democrat asserted.
McConnell insisted Wednesday that Democrats wanted to use the massive economic stimulus package for ‘political gainsmenship’ and get things passed that were unrelated to providing relief to those affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
Democrats indicated early Wednesday morning that they are finally ready to sign the phase three economic stimulus package, which includes a measure that would issue direct checks of $1,200 to those making under $95,000.
Senators were finally able to strike a deal overnight on the $2 trillion rescue package to address the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak, after Democrats blocked the first two versions of the GOP-backed bill.
One of the new stipulations in the package prohibits Donald Trump’s family businesses from receiving benefits from the coronavirus relief.
Schumer wrote in a Dear Colleague letter early Wednesday that the new bill ‘prohibit[s] businesses controlled by the President, Vice President, Members of Congress, and heads of Executive Departments from receiving loans or investments from Treasury programs.’
‘Our unity gave us important strength and leverage in negotiations,’ Schumer lauded.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment on the president’s companies being left out of the new bill’s benefits.
Schumer also claimed that the most recent version is more worker friendly.
‘To the American people we say, big help, quick help is on the way because we face about the most unprecedented health crisis we have,’ the New York Democrat told CNN Wednesday morning.
Senator Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Republicans and the White House have finally reached a deal on the phase three economic stimulus package, and the $2 trillion bill will be voted on Wednesday
Democrats are specifically proud that the new coronavirus relief package includes a measure that bans Donald Trump and his family, including son-in-law Jared Kushner’s businesses from receiving the benefits from the package or taking loans or investments from Treasury programs
The death toll in the U.S. is nearing 800 as of Wednesday morning, with more than 1/3 of those coming from New York
Schumer said all details of loans to corporations from the $500 billion fund in the $2 trillion package would be published and subject to Inspector General’s oversight, but did not address the ban on the president and his family benefiting.
The revelations of a deal came around 1:00 a.m. and brought an end to five day of marathon negotiations with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowing to get the deal passed in the upper chamber Wednesday.
‘Ladies and gentlemen, we are done. We have a deal,’ the White House legislative affairs director Eric Ueland announced from the Capitol overnight.
Ahead of the Senate gaveling out just before 2:00 a.m., McConnell and Schumer delivered brief remarks on the Senate floor confirming a deal had been reached, and praising the package.
Congress is hoping to get the bill to the president’s desk for signature by the end of the week as House leaders indicate they are looking at an expedited process to pass the relief package once it reaches their chamber.
The legislation aims to flood the reeling economy with capital by sending $1,200 checks to many Americans, creating a $367 billion loan program for small businesses and setting up a $500 billion fund for industries, cities and states.
It followed days of vicious partisan infighting and impassioned Senate floor speeches over what to include, in what ultimately may be the largest emergency rescue package lawmakers have ever passed.
Schumer claimed Democrats were able to secure several other provisions in the package over the last few days by blocking the first two versions proposed by Republicans, even though McConnell claimed they were bipartisan in nature.
In his early morning letter, Schumer lauded they were able to secure an extra month of unemployment insurance, $55 billion more for hospitals and healthcare centers, a ban on allowing companies to use relief money for stock buybacks and eliminating a $3 billion bailout for oil companies, among a list of several other measures.
Although some Republicans may disagree with provisions detailed in the newest version of the bill, it is expected to have the votes needed to pass through the Senate.
A senior Republican aide pushed back on Schumer’s claim that Democrats are the reason many of these measures were included in the final package.
‘Reading Chuck Schumer’s list, I half expected that the next thing I read would be the Minority Leader taking credit for inventing fire. The reality is that almost every significant ‘win’ he’s taking credit for, is actually a Senate Republican idea,’ the aide asserted.
‘Senate Republicans included three months of unemployment insurance in the CARES Act this past weekend, and did not oppose adding a fourth,’ the senior GOP aide added to illustrate one example.
‘Senator Schumer delayed life-saving aid to medical professionals and significant relief for families and small businesses in order to claim credit for wins that are either bipartisan or Republican ideas,’ the aide charged.
WHAT’S IN THE $2 TRILLION ECONOMIC STIMULUS PACKAGE?
– Those laid off due to the coronavirus outbreak are guaranteed to receive four months of their full pay
– The maximum benefit from unemployment insurance will also be raised by $600 per week and those payments can last up to four months
– About $500 billion of the bill will be directed to the government sending checks to Americans earning less than $95,000 – up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child
– $15.5 billion in additional funding for people on the food stamp program SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)
– $8.8 billion in funding for Child Nutrition Programs to help children receive meals while schools are shut down
– $9.5 billion to farmers and livestock and dairy producers who support local food systems like farmers markets, schools, and restaurants
– $200 million for Emergency Food and Shelter Program to individuals and families
– $45 million to support families who experience domestic violence during this time of household isolation
– $221 million for corporations to improve teleworking capabilities
– A $562 million loan program for small businesses
– $10 billion to help publicly-owned, commercial airports and $1.018 billion to Amtrak
– $25 billion is provided to public transit operators, like Metro and Subway systems
– $25 million to help the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts operate and open its doors ‘once the crisis is over’
– $400 million for states to help prepare for the 2020 elections, which some speculate might need to be moved to a digital, remote format
– $100 billion in grants to hospitals, other health care facilities and centers and Medicare and Medicaid programs
– $13.5 billion for elementary and secondary schools as thousands have resorted to e-learning
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced the deal on the Senate floor close to 2:00 a.m. on Wednesday
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin (left) has taken lead on negotiating the package on behalf of the White House. Here he is with acting White House chief of staff Mark Meadows stepping out of a meeting to negotiate the bill on Capitol Hill Tuesday
Who will be eligible for $1,200 cash payments under the bill?
The text of the deal was not expected to be available until later on Wednesday.
However, earlier versions of the bill called for a cash payment to most Americans who make less than $75,000 a year. The one-time payments would be $1,200 for each adult and $500 for each child.
At higher incomes, the checks would get smaller. The money would be deposited directly into people’s bank accounts in several weeks, if they have received tax refunds or paid taxes that way in 2018 or 2019.
The Tax Foundation estimates that 93.6 percent of tax filers will get a check. It’s unclear how the bill will deal with those who do not file taxes, but experts recommend quickly filing for 2019 even for those who owe the government nothing.
The hold up in passing the bill came as Democrats claimed the Republican version had major ‘problems’ and didn’t even meet the minimum requirements they laid out for inclusion.
Democrats also claimed the first two versions included too much support for bailing out corporations and businesses and not enough focus was put on directly assisting Americans economically affected by the coronavirus crisis.
Republicans, on the other hand, claimed Democrats were trying to include measures in the package that they said had nothing to do with relieving those affected by the fast-spreading respiratory disease.
The bill, however, always included sending money directly to Americans in the form of a $1,000 check.
At higher incomes, the checks would get smaller, according to the latest version, and it would be directly deposited into people’s bank accounts in the next several weeks.
The Tax Foundation estimates that 93.6 per cent of tax filers will get a check. It’s unclear how the bill will deal with those who do not file taxes, but experts recommend quickly filing for 2019 even for those who owe the government nothing.
McConnell, Trump and others lamented that Democrats were trying to get their ‘wish list’ passed in the bill, including parts of the Green New Deal, like setting new emission standards for airlines and giving tax incentives for companies that use solar and wind power.
When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi returned to Capitol Hill Monday, she proposed her own version of the phase three package as senators struggled to reach a deal with the White House.
Republicans had even more criticism for that version, which included putting aside $35 million for the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., a multi-purpose performance center.
While the House hopes to vote on the new bill by Wednesday or Thursday by bringing it to the floor by unanimous consent, one lawmaker could screw up that plan by objecting to the request.
The number of coronavirus cases have skyrocketed in the U.S. over the last week, and now nears 55,000
Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, sometimes called the White House, in Palm Beach, Florida. He vacations here several times throughout the year and has even changed his residency from New York to Florida
Trump International Hotel in Washinton, D.C.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a champion of the Green New Deal, told MSNBC in an interview Tuesday night that she wants to see more done – like a moratorium on student loans and mortgage and rent payments.
She claimed that $1,000 wasn’t enough to help struggling families who still are responsible for paying these expenses despite potentially losing their shifts as businesses shut down during the outbreak or losing their jobs completely as companies struggle financially.
The New York lawmaker slammed the bill for not including provisions that require companies who take money from the government’s stimulus package to adhere to certain requirements, like being unable to fire their employees.
The deal reached Wednesday morning aims to cushion the economic blow from a pandemic that has killed nearly 800 people in the U.S., infected almost 55,000, shuttered thousands of businesses, thrown millions out of work and led states to order 100 million people – nearly a third of the population – to stay at home.
The money at stake in the stimulus legislation exceeds what the U.S. government spends on national defense, scientific research, highway construction and other discretionary programs.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and congressional leaders engaged in final negotiations Tuesday. While the two sides had resolved many issues in the sweeping package, some sticking points remained.
‘We’re trying to finalize all the documents, going through a lot of complicated issues, and we’re making a lot of progress,’ Mnuchin, who has taken lead on negotiating the package on behalf of the White House, said earlier Tuesday.
Ravaged in recent days, stocks recovered a great deal as negotiators signaled a resolution was in sight.