The Trump administration and Senate leaders reached a historic deal shortly after midnight Wednesday on a massive $2 trillion coronavirus relief package for workers and businesses.
The bipartisan breakthrough in the Senate capped days of heated negotiations that had nearly been derailed by last-minute demands from House Democrats.
“Ladies and gentleman, we are done,” White House legislative affairs director Eric Ueland announced as he left the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., near midnight. “We have a deal.”
Ueland told reporters that “much of the work on the bill’s text has been completed, and I’m hopeful over the next few hours we’ll finish what’s left and we will circulate it early in the morning.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the bill amounts to “unemployment compensation on steroids,” and that every American who is laid off will have their missed salary remunerated. That provision will enable companies to stay afloat and immediately bring back those employees when things are safe, Schumer said.
Despite the historic stimulus which will help millions of Americans, support for the bill in the House of Representatives remained uncertain as one member openly criticized the plan.
The unprecedented economic rescue package 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.
The measure will provide $1,200 in direct cash payments to individuals and an average of $3,000 for families. It expands unemployment insurance, raising the payment by $600 and providing coverage for four months.
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, given that Democrats wanted them to abide by new carbon emissions restrictions. Hospitals would get significant help as well.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer touted the gains his party achieved by holding out on the agreement for days.
“Our unity gave us important strength and leverage in negotiations,” the New York Democrat said.
According to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Senate will vote “later today” on the measure, McConnell said. The House is hoping to voice-vote the bill, but that requires every lawmaker to agree to skip a roll call vote and debate.
In a letter to his colleagues, Schumer remarked, “Democrats are ready to give our unanimous consent to speed up the consideration of the bill and get the job done.” That means that if there are no objections from Republicans, the Senate could clear the bill without a formal roll call vote. Parliamentary, that is the fastest way to move something on the floor.
McConnell said the Senate will meet at noon on Wednesday, but did not set a time for a vote. By rule, the procedural vote to begin debate on the coronavirus package would happen at 1 p.m. ET, unless the Senate scraps that vote.