US Senate approves historic $2tn stimulus package

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi coronavirus stimulus vote

After five days of round-the-clock negotiation, Congressional leaders and the Trump Administration reached agreement early this morning on a $2 billion stimulus package that will provide relief to individuals and small businesses along with corporations and localities impacted by COVID-19.

The House is expected then to attempt quickly to pass the bill by unanimous consent, a procedure that enables the chamber to approve the legislation without lawmakers being present to vote.

The monster deal thrashed out between Republicans, Democrats and the White House includes cash payments to American taxpayers and several hundred billion dollars in grants and loans to small businesses and core industries.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the crisis the bill is aimed to address "the most serous threat to Americans" health in over a century and quite likely the greatest risk to America's jobs and prosperity that we've seen since the Great Depression'. The $2.2 trillion estimate is the White House's best guess.

Democrats' coronavirus proposal reportedly includes other measures such as repealing Trump's executive orders on unionization, forgiving $10,000 of student debt, implementing mandatory early voting and same-day voter registration, and requiring that any company receiving federal relief raise their minimum wage to $15 per hour.

"Somebody who is living in New York City is definitely not upper-middle class at $150,000, given the incredible cost of living there, as compared to a lot of other places in this country", said Joseph Antos, a health policy expert at the American Enterprise Institute.

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.

"The Senate has pivoted from one of the most contentious, partisan periods in the nation's history to passing this rescue package a 100-nothing all in one quarter of this year", McConnell said.

The letter criticizes the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the stimulus package signed by President Obama during the Great Recession, for centering companies over workers, and it offers nearly 100 policy interventions to improve on that model.

"The legislation now before us is historic because it is meant to match a historic crisis", said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Still, Pelosi said the need for more money for NY is "no reason to stop the step we are taking".

Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton, a major accounting firm, wrote in a blog post Wednesday that the bill is created to temporarily help individuals, firms of all sizes, hospitals and states "traverse COVID-tainted waters".

Trump emphasized Wednesday that would immediately sign the bill once passed by both houses of Congress. And while no climate-friendly provisions made it into the $2 trillion stimulus bill, it wasn't necessarily bad news for the planet either. Investors are now nervously awaiting the release later Thursday of U.S. jobless claims data, which is expected to show a massive rise.

Schumer boasted of negotiating wins for transit systems, hospitals and cash-hungry state governments that were cemented after Democrats blocked the measure in votes held Sunday and Monday. A House voice vote also was possible. Previously, Republicans said this would amount to $1,200 to most American adults, among other payments.

McSally on Tuesday defended the original version of the bill, saying it would have provided $75 billion to hospitals, more than $1 billion to Indian Health Service, $20 billion to veterans health care and $1.7 billion for the Strategic National Stockpile for equipment such as coronavirus testing kits and ventilators. This was a key Democratic initiative, which Schumer dubbed "unemployment insurance on steroids".

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