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2020-03-26 11:04:531 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
It was good news late Wednesday when the Senate finally passed the $2-trillion stimulus package designed to help the economy that is struggling thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. This was after four Republican senators put the vote on hold, wanting to add an amendment to it.
A deal was made between Democrats and the White House early Wednesday after a marathon of negotiations throughout the weekend and into this week. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) thought it would be an easy bill to put through, yet with five senators out because of the coronavirus, preliminary votes did not show enough support to pass it.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was heading up the Democrats' side of the negotiations, yet the Senate GOP was not on the other side of the table. He was negotiating with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who was representing the White House.
After the agreement was finally on the table early Wednesday morning, it was left to the Senate and House to formally pass it, after which it would then land on Donald Trump's desk. If it passes, it will be the largest emergency aid package in the country's history, as well as the most impactful legislative action so far during the coronavirus crisis. Along with immense health problems, the virus has also led to a failing economy with people losing their jobs and businesses struggling.
The text of the approved legislation has not been released, but it's known that there will be $250 billion in direct payments to individuals and families, $350 billion dedicated to small business loans, $250 billion in unemployment benefits, and $500 billion in loans for distressed companies.
The goal of the bill is to get the economy back on track and help workers and families, as well as businesses. If an individual earns $7500 or less in adjusted gross income, they would get $1,200. If a married couple earns less than $150,00, they'll receive $2,400. The benefits are cut off completely for individuals earning just under $100K and married couples earning just under $200K.
Additionally, Schumer has said there is also a provision that blocks Trump and his family and other top government officials and members of Congress from getting loans or investments from Treasury programs listed in the stimulus. It's believed that this was designed so that the package could not be used to save Donald Trump's hotels and resorts, some of which are known to have been failing, even before coronavirus COVID-19 hit the United States.
When McConnell announced on the Senate floor that an agreement had been made, he described it as "a wartime level of investment of our nation." He added that the Senate would move to pass the legislation later Wednesday.
The Senate vote was held up after Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), and Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) pushed to vote on an amendment they wanted to be added to the package.
"This bill pays you more not to work than if you were working," said Graham in a press conference. "You're literally incentivizing taking people out of the workforce at a time when we need critical infrastructure supplied with workers. If this is not a drafting error, then it's the worst idea I've seen in a long time."
"I am very hopeful that we will get this done very quickly. I think the American people need the resources in this bill," added Scott. "This bill needs to be done without any question. I think we can get it done here today, and I believe that we'll have an amendment in just a couple of hours."
It's unknown exactly what Graham was referring to since the final text of the legislation is not known, but there were negotiations over four months of unemployment benefits that extended to self-employed workers. Many workers have been sidelined, such as those in the airline and hotel industry, during the pandemic, and others can't work being forced to stay locked up in their homes to stop the quick spread of the disease.
Democrats wanted more safeguards for workers and felt the first draft of the legislation was too heavy on business bailout. They also wanted to have oversight for how the funding would be determined. Both Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) indicated they had won concessions in the final version of the deal.
Pelosi said on Tuesday that "many of the provisions in there have been greatly improved because of negotiation."
Schumer asked on Wednesday morning, "Does it have everything we need? No. Are some things in there that I would have rather not had? No, of course. But this is the art of compromise," adding, "America needed huge help quickly. And I think we've risen to that occasion."
The House is expected to take up the bill on Friday.
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