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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 deal.”
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 said.
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 well.
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.
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 have.”
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 everyone.”
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.
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