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Wednesday, March 25, 2020
White House, Senate reach late-night deal on massive $2T coronavirus stimulus package
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. walks to the Senate chamber on Capitol
Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
The White House and Senate leaders reached a breakthrough
deal shortly after midnight Wednesday on a massive and historic $2 trillion
coronavirus relief package for workers and businesses, capping 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
Ueland told reporters that "much of the work on bill
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
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.
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
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. Parliamentarily, that is the fastest way to
move something on the floor.
A senior GOP source told Fox
News contributor and Townhall.com editor Guy Benson that the move was a
face-saving exercise by Schumer, and that he was trying to "take
credit" for a GOP bill that he filibustered for "small
ball" alterations. Democrats, the source said, couldn't drag the situation
out much longer; economic conditions have worsened dramatically, and
President Trump's approval rating has risen.
McConnell said the Senate will meet at 12 p.m. ET 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.
“Democrats are finally taking ‘yes’ for an answer,"
McConnell said in his remarks on the Senate floor early Wednesday morning.
"Help is on the way.”
“After days of intense discussions, the Senate has
reached a bipartisan agreement on a historic relief package for this pandemic,”
he continued. “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."
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who was smiling after
McConnell left the floor, told reporters: "This is a very important
bipartisan piece of legislation that is going to be very important to help
American workers, American business and people across America. So, we
couldn't be more pleased. I've spoken to the president, many times today, and
he's very pleased with this legislation, and the impact that this is going to
Concerning the House, Mnuchin remarked, "I can't
speak for the Speaker. I hope she takes it up and she passes as-is. We need, we
need this to get working for the American people. And, again, there are a lot
of compromises. It's terrific bill, and it was a great accomplishment on
In a statement Wednesday morning, House Speaker Nancy
Pelosi said that "House Democrats will now review the final provisions and
legislative text of the agreement to determine a course of action.”
“This bipartisan legislation takes us a long way down the
road in meeting the needs of the American people," she
wrote. "While the compromise does not go as far as our Take
Responsibility for Workers and Families Act, thanks to the unity and insistence
of Senate and House Democrats, the bill has moved a great deal closer to
Secretary Steven Mnuchin, left, accompanied by White House Legislative Affairs
Director Eric Ueland and acting White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, speaks
with reporters as he walks to the offices of Senate Majority Leader Mitch
McConnell of Ky. on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. (AP
However, Mnuchin spoke, Michigan independent Rep.
Justin Amash, who recently left the Republican Party, signaled that he
might essentially delay consideration of the bill in the House. The lower
chamber may seek to pass the legislation via unanimous consent because many members
are not in Washington -- but a single member can ruin that plan.
The House used unanimous consent during the 1918 flu
pandemic as well.
"This bipartisan deal is a raw deal for the
people," Amash tweeted. "It does far too little for those who need
the most help, while providing hundreds of billions in corporate welfare,
massively growing government, inhibiting economic adaptation, and widening the
gap between the rich and the poor."
The deal came hours after President Trump's top economic
adviser said an unprecedented $6 trillion stimulus plan was imminent, including $4
trillion in liquidity from the Federal Reserve and $2 trillion in new
money from Congress.
Tensions then abruptly ratcheted back up again on Capitol
Hill Tuesday night -- with Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and Steve
Daines taking to the Senate floor and calling for an end to negotiations
because, as Graham put it, Democrats were "nickel-and-diming at a time
when people are dying -- literally dying."
Graham and Daines' late-night push for an immediate
vote on a stimulus bill came after tensions seemingly had cooled in
Congress during the day, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average to
its highest point gain in its history as leaders from both
parties signaled that an agreement could be within reach.
Shares advanced in Asia on Wednesday after the Dow Jones
Industrial Average surged to its best day since 1933 as Congress and the White
House neared a deal. Japan's Nikkei 225 index jumped 5.3 percent, while Hong
Kong added 3 percent and Sydney climbed 3.6 percent. Markets across Asia
were all up more than 2 percent.
and gentleman, we are done. We have a deal."
White House legislative affairs director Eric Ueland
But, the Republicans said late Tuesday, Democrats were
still seeking new payouts that were delaying a vote on a final bill.
"In case you're watching," Graham said in
reference to the president, his voice rising, "tell [Treasury Secretary]
Steven Mnuchin to come back to the White House and end negotiations. I think I
understand the give-and-take of life and politics, but I've been called by two
good friends on the Democratic side in the last five or six hours wanting more
money. End the negotiations."
He added: "This bill is $2 trillion. There's a ton
of money in this bill for people who need it, but what we're doing now is,
every special-interest group in town is trying to get a
little bit more."
“Listen, we were told we are at the one-yard line last
night to get this done," Daines, who led the colloquy with
Graham, said from the Senate floor. "All I’ve got to say is, the
Senate may think it’s at the one-yard line right now, but Montanans are getting
sacked. In fact, our unemployment claims in Montana since march 17th, we just
looked it up 15 minutes ago, 14,350 Montanans have filed for unemployment in
the last week.”
Monday had been marked with furious debate on the Senate
floor, as Republicans accused House Democrats of proposing an alternative stimulus bill that was full of unnecessary
progressive wishlist items. Senate Democrats in the meantime repeatedly blocked
the Republican stimulus bill, which would require 60 votes to survive.
The bill offered by Pelosi had included measures to
restrict airlines' carbon emissions, protect illegal immigrants, provide for
same-day voter registration, pay off billions in student loan debt, encourage
federal agencies to employ "minority banks," bail out the U.S. Postal
Service and even fund the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
"There is a whole concern in our country that if
we're giving tens of billions of dollars to the airlines, that we could at
least have a shared value about what happens to the environment,"
Pelosi said Tuesday.
But, support for Democrats' climate-change push in the
stimulus bill withered Tuesday. The former chief of staff to Rep.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Saikat Chakrabarti, wrote on Twitter in response to
Pelosi's comments: "I helped write the #GreenNewDeal and
I think this is ridiculous. The tiny little emissions standard increase doesn’t
even do anything meaningful to stave off climate change and gives the @GOP leverage to get rid of real
help for working people. Solve the problem at hand. Hospitals would get
significant help as well."
Republicans, including the president, have called the
measures irrelevant "nonsense" and total nonstarters. After
Democrats signaled they might be willing to negotiate away some of their
proposals, though, the Dow surged and lawmakers appeared optimistic.
Democrats have argued the GOP package would do too
much for large corporations and not enough for workers, and inaccurately suggested that the treasury secretary
would have unilateral control over a massive "slush fund."
"This is ridiculous," Graham continued
Tuesday night. "Steven Mnuchin has done a good job. I appreciate his
efforts to negotiate a bill that will help America. Senator [Mitch] McConnell
says we're on the two-yard line. I believe the problem is that there are
20 people playing defense, and we need to take some people off the field. What
bothers me is that at that late hour, I'm still getting calls from people
wanting more money."
Trump with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy
and Infectious Diseases, during a briefing at the White House on Tuesday. (AP
Graham and Daines' frustration was matched by many
of his colleagues. Louisiana GOP Sen. John Kennedy told Fox News' Sean Hannity late Tuesday
that while the coronavirus "can kill you," so can "hunger."
Shortly before Graham and Daines spoke, Trump
declared at a coronovirus task force briefing that the country was
nearing "the end of our historic battle" with "the
invisible enemy" of coronavirus. Trump's approval numbers hit their highest point ever this week, with 60
percent of Americans approving of his coronavirus response efforts.
The president also sounded an unexpectedly magnanimous
note: "I also want to thank Congress, because whether or not we're happy
that they haven't quite gotten there yet, they have been working long hours.
I'm talking Republicans and Democrats, all of them, the House, the Senate. I
want to thank Congress because they are really trying to get there, and I think
Then, Director of the U.S. National Economic
Council Larry Kudlow specifically said the new coronavirus bill working
its way through congressional gridlock would total $6
trillion: $4 trillion in liquidity from the Federal
Reserve and $2 trillion in new money. Typical annual appropriations
from Congress in a given fiscal year are around $1.2-4 trillion, with
total expenditures roughly $4.3 trillion.
Gallup: Trump job
approval soars 12 net points to 49-45, the best net approval of his entire
His approval by party:
Republicans 92 (+1)
Independents 43 (+8)
Democrats 13 (+6)
60% of Americans approve of his handling of coronavirus against 38% who do not.
“This package will be the single largest Main Street
assistance program in the history of the United States,” Kudlow said, adding
that negotiations would continue into the evening but that a vote was imminent.
Meanwhile, there was some good news inside the White
House grounds. As the briefing concluded, White House press Secretary
Stephanie Grisham, who has been quarantined since coming in contact with
Brazilian officials almost two weeks ago and working from home, revealed she
has received negative COVID-19 test results and will be back to work Wednesday.
Grisham will return as the Trump administration
increasingly has sought to project optimism. The president, who tweeted Sunday that "WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE
WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF," declared at the Fox News virtual town hall that he "would love to
have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter."
Secretary Steven Mnuchin, center, on his way to the offices of Senate Majority
Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Pressed by Fox News' John Roberts on the timeline, Trump
said at the briefing: "We'll be looking at a lot of things -- we'll
also be looking at very large portions of our country, but I'll be guided very
much by Dr. [Anthony] Fauci, and by Deborah [Birx]."
Fauci, the longtime head of the National Institute of
Allergy and Infectious Diseases, whose absence from recent coronavirus
briefings triggered a wave of speculation in the media, said the timeline was
Democrats have reacted furiously to Trump's new timeline for relaxing
economic restrictions, with Hillary Clinton suggesting people would
"needlessly die," and Joe Biden accusing Trump of spreading
"This a--hole and his rich friends are too stupid to
get that we can only get through this together," former Obama speechwriter
Jon Favreau wrote. "Everyone is at risk from the virus. Everyone suffers
when there aren’t enough hospital beds. Everyone struggles when millions are
too sick to work."
Fellow Obama communications alum Tommy Vietor,
meanwhile, deleted a tweet lamenting that he was reduced to
drinking red wine in the shower during the economic shutdown.
Fox News' Chad Pergram, Caroline McKee, and
John Roberts, as well as The Associated Press, contributed to this report.
Re is a lawyer and editor based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @gregg_re or email
him at email@example.com.