House unlikely to vote on historic $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill Wednesday

  • The White House and Senate leaders reached a deal early Wednesday on a massive $2 trillion stimulus bill to combat the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate will vote and pass the legislation later Wednesday.
  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called it “the largest rescue package in American history.”
  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin agreed to enhanced oversight of a $500 billion bailout fund that Democrats had criticized, according to a senior administration official.

The White House and Senate leaders reached a deal early Wednesday on a massive $2 trillion relief bill — said to be the largest rescue package in American history — to combat the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

As of Wednesday morning, though, the Senate was still drafting the final details of the text. A senior Democratic aide told CNBC that due to procedural reasons, including how long it is taking the Senate to send over a draft of the bill, it is unlikely the House will vote on it Wednesday. The House needs to pass the bill before it can reach President Donald Trump’s desk. 

Efforts to pass the measure have taken on urgency as hospitals, companies, states and individuals have all pleaded for needed resources to battle the pandemic. Its impact has now reached into the Senate: Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., earlier this week announced he has tested positive for coronavirus.

“At last we have a deal,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said after 1:30 a.m. ET Wednesday from the floor of the Senate.

“In effect, this is a war-time level of investment into our nation,” said McConnell, who promised the bill would rush financial assistance to Americans through direct checks to households, enhanced unemployment insurance, hundreds of billions of dollars in emergency loans to small businesses, and more resources for hospitals and medical equipment.

The Senate has yet to release the final terms of the deal. An earlier draft seen Tuesday would provide cash payments of up to $1,200 for individuals, $2,400 for married couples and $500 per child, reduced if an individual makes more than $75,000 or a couple makes more than $150,000. 

The draft language also stipulated a $350 billion fund for small businesses to mitigate layoffs and support payroll.

Employers will get a deferral of payroll taxes, but and pay them back on a staggered in coming years, the administration official said. The deferral only applies to employers, and not employees.  

McConnell said the bill would “stabilize key national industries” to prevent as many layoffs as possible. U.S. passenger and cargo airlines have sought $58 billion in government relief to help manage a financial blow that they say is worse than 9/11. The details of that aid package was one of the last major outstanding issues Tuesday night.  

As part of the deal, airlines will be prohibited from stock buybacks and CEO bonuses, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wrote in a letter Wednesday to Democratic senators. The duration of that ban could not be immediately determined.

A senior administration official told CNBC that airlines will not need to pay back the direct grants they receive, though the government will take some equity share. Companies must also agree to refrain from layoffs through a date later this year.

After five days of arduous negotiations, after sleep-deprived nights and marathon negotiating sessions, we have a bipartisan agreement on the largest rescue package in American history,” Schumer said on the floor Wednesday morning. 

He touted “unemployment compensation on steroids,” which would cover every American for four months, as the U.S. braces for historic layoffs and furloughs.

The New York Democrat promised oversight on the loans the U.S. offers businesses, saying “every loan document will be made public very quickly” to make sure those loans are fair. He also said an inspector general and an oversight board would supervise the loans, after earlier criticism from Democrats that a proposed $500 billion fund for businesses left too much discretion to the Treasury. 

Businesses controlled by the president, vice president, congressional lawmakers and heads of executive departments are barred from receiving loans, Schumer wrote in his early morning letter to senators. The hotel industry is among the hardest hit. Trump him himself owns several of them.

The president is aware of and agreed to that provision, according the a senior administration official. 

Schumer also wrote that the bill bars stock buybacks for the term of the government assistance plus one year on any company receiving a loan through the legislation.  

The deal will allocate $150 billion to states and localities battling the pandemic and $55 billion more for the health-care system. 

According to Schumer’s letter to colleagues, the deal also includes $10 billion in Small Business Administration emergency grants and up to $10 million of emergency relief per business. It allocates $17 billion for the SBA to cover six months of payment for small businesses with existing SBA loans.

It will offer $30 billion in emergency education funding and $25 billion in emergency transit funding. 

McConnell said the Senate will vote and pass the legislation later Wednesday. As of Wednesday morning, the Senate was still drafting language, with plans to vote on the bill late afternoon, a person familiar with the situation said. 

The House will not move the bill Wednesday after a brief pro forma session in the morning, according to a Democratic aide. 

Any deal the GOP-controlled Senate approves needs to be passed by the Democratic-led House. It is possible House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who has been talking with Schumer, could push for more changes to the Senate bill before giving it the go-ahead.

On Wednesday morning, Pelosi said in a statement that the “bipartisan legislation takes us a long way down the road in meeting the needs of the American people,” noting that Democrats had made significant changes to an original proposal crafted by Republicans and the Trump administration.

Pelosi this week released her own House stimulus proposal, which though largely symbolic, laid out the Democrats’ agenda. It included regulations over carbon emissions and tough oversight of companies accepting federal loans. 

In her statement Wednesday, Pelosi said House Democrats will now “review the final provisions and legislative text of the agreement to determine a course of action.”

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/24/coronavirus-updates-congress-gets-closer-to-a-deal-on-massive-stimulus-bill.html

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