Senate Passes $2 Trillion Aid Package, Awaits House Approval
Senators approved the legislation after 24 hours of negotiations between the administration and senators. Steny Hoyer (D., Md.), the House majority leader, said late Wednesday that the House would consider the stimulus bill on Friday. Some House Democrats have complained the Senate package doesn’t go far enough.
“Republicans have told us that’s not possible from their side,” to pass it by unanimous consent, Pelosi said. “This is a $2 trillion bill, I would like to see good debate on the floor.”
The aid package greatly expands unemployment insurance to cover freelance and gig workers (increases current unemployment assistance by $600 a week for 4 months), refills drained state coffers,and creates new grant programs to send $100 billion to health-care providers. An additional $16 billion will go toward building a stockpile of medical equipment, including personal protective gear that has become scarce.
“A fight has arrived on our shores,” Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor, where he likened the measure to “wartime investment.” He added: “We did not seek it. We did not want it. But now, we are going to win it.”
The legislation will also provide one-time checks of $1,200 to Americans with adjusted gross income up to $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for married couples. Individuals and couples are eligible for an additional $500 per child. The government rebates will be pared by $5 for each $100 of income over those thresholds, completely phasing out for individuals whose incomes exceed $99,000, $146,500 for head of households with one child, and $198,000 for joint filers who don’t have children. Eligible U.S. residents must have a work-eligible social security number to receive such a check and must not be claimed as a dependent by another taxpayer, according to Senate documents.
“This bill pays you more not to work than if you were working,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.). He, along with a few others, tried to amend the legislation.
“Some workers, some, may end up coming out ahead. I’m not going to stand here and say that I feel badly about that,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.). “Let’s give them that helping hand and not apologize for it for a minute.”
The package also includes $350 billion in loans to small businesses in an effort to keep Americans on payrolls. Under the new program, loan money that small businesses use to cover payroll expenses, rent, interest on mortgage obligations and utilities will be forgiven. Democrats said the bill includes $150 billion to go directly to state and local governments saddled with costs related to the virus.
A major sticking point was $500 billion in corporate assistance, much of which will go toward backstopping Federal Reserve loans. The Treasury secretary will have the authority to directly lend a slice of those funds, but the agreement will create a new inspector general and oversight board to monitor the aid. The corporate aid portion also includes $17 billion for assistance to companies deemed to be crucial to national security, which could include firms such as Boeing Co. and General Electric Co. (Boeing has sought at least $60 billion in public and private aid for itself, its suppliers and the broader aerospace industry.) It also supplies grants of $25 billion for passenger air carriers, $4 billion for air-cargo carriers and $3 billion for contractors. The money is on top of loans and loan guarantees available through the Treasury.
“We didn’t seek and don’t have plans to request funds from this provision,” a GE spokeswoman said.
“You can imagine there’s an awful lot of companies that can qualify for that,” Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) said about that national-security fund, adding it shouldn’t be thought of as specifically for Boeing.
Democrats did succeed at an attempt to insert a provision that bans businesses controlled by Mr. Trump, the vice president, members of Congress and heads of executive departments from receiving loans or other funds from the stimulus bill. Children and spouses of those people are also banned, according to a senior Democratic aide.