/Senators reach deal on $2 trillion stimulus bill aimed at coronavirus, bill will pass later today, says McConnell

Senators reach deal on $2 trillion stimulus bill aimed at coronavirus, bill will pass later today, says McConnell

WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said another bill to counter the effects of the coronavirus is likely, opening the door to another legislative package just hours after senators reached a deal on a $2 trillion stimulus plan early Wednesday.

“I think the odds are high we’re going to have to do something again,” Schumer said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “We have to see in the next few weeks what other problems haven’t been solved.” 

“This bill is a good bill,” he said, noting “it doesn’t have everything I like in it. And there are a few things in it I don’t like. But overall, we need it.” 

– Nicholas Wu 

Senate to vote on stimulus package Wednesday

The Senate is scheduled to reconvene at noon Wednesday to begin the process of passing the historic $2 trillion economic rescue package crafted to combat the impacts of coronavirus.

The Senate first will hold a vote to end debate and clear the way for final Senate passage, likely later Wednesday. After its expected passage, the bill will head to the House for a vote there before heading to President Donald Trump for his signature.

The final language is still being crafted but the package includes one-time payments of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child, $367 billion for small businesses, $500 billion for loans to larger industries, $100 billion for hospitals and the health care system, $600 more per week in unemployment benefits for those out of work.

It’s the third measure and – by far – the largest economic stimulus package expected to emerge from Congress this month to confront a pandemic that has killed more than 800 Americans, infected tens of thousands more, and shuttered large swaths of the U.S. economy.

– Ledyard King

Senators reach $2 trillion stimulus to fight coronavirus impacts

After days of rancorous negotiations, Republican and Democratic senators have reached a deal on a roughly $2 trillion stimulus package to ease the damaging economic effects of the coronavirus outbreak.

About 1:30 a.m. EDT Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced the agreement in a speech on the Senate floor along with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

“At last, we have a deal,” McConnell said. “After days of intense discussions, the Senate has reached a bipartisan agreement on a historic relief package for this pandemic.” 

The final language is still being crafted but the package includes:

  • one-time payments of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child
  • $367 billion for small businesses
  • $500 billion for loans to larger industries
  • $100 billion for hospitals and health system
  • $50 billion for protective equipment for health care workers, testing supplies, workforce training, new construction to house patients, and coronavirus medical research. 
  • $600 more per week in unemployment benefits for those out of work.

McConnell said it was a “war-time level of investment” that would “rush new resources onto the front lines of our nation’s health care fight” and “inject trillions of dollars of cash into the economy as fast as possible.” 

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“We’re going to pass this legislation later today,” he vowed. 

“After sleep-deprived nights and marathon negotiating sessions, we have a bipartisan agreement on the largest rescue package in American history,” Schumer said. “This is not a moment of celebration but one of necessity. The anguish of the American people – wondering about the future of their health, the health of their loved ones and the economy – necessitates us to do all we can to help them and help our country.” 

Schumer said while “like all compromises, this bill is far from perfect” it was a significant improvement over the previous version and urged his fellow Democrats to vote for it.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., walks to his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) ORG XMIT: DCSW101

For days, both sides had agreed on the basics of the package: direct payments to Americans, help for small business, a lifeline to large industries, such as airlines, considered vital to the nation’s swift recovery from a shutdown that had paralyzed the world’s largest economy and upended the country’s daily routines.

But a quick compromise proved elusive.

Democrats pressed for more worker protections, money for states fighting the virus and guarantees that corporations couldn’t use bailout money for stock buybacks and executive bonuses. Republicans, in turn, accused Democrats of obstruction for delaying a desperately-needed lifeline for the American economy in order to push what McConnell derided as a “left-wing episode of ‘Supermarket Sweep.'”

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Floor votes simply to advance the bill to the Senate floor for a final vote died on two separate occasions. Tempers flared. Patience was short. Both sides accused the other of negotiating in bad faith while the crisis worsened, the number of infection cases climbed, and the stock market continued to tumble.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, right, listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a press briefing with the coronavirus task force, at the White House, Tuesday, March 17, 2020.

In addition, the already difficult negotiations were complicated as a handful of senators – all Republicans – couldn’t vote because they had to self-quarantine over exposure to the very virus they were trying to combat.

If the bill passes the full Senate, it will go to the House.

– Ledyard King, Nicholas Wu and William Cummings

94% of Republicans, 27% of Democrats approve of Trump’s coronavirus response, poll finds

President Donald Trump’s opponents have criticized him for not ramping up the federal response to the COVID-19 outbreak sooner, and for downplaying the threat posed by the new coronavirus into early March. But those criticisms do not appear to be shared by a majority of the American people as 60% of whom approve of Trump’s handling of the pandemic, according to a new Gallup poll.

Approval of his response was highest among Republicans at 94%. Sixty percent of independents and 27% of Democrats also gave him good marks on his handling of the crisis. Overall, 38% said they disapproved of his response to the outbreak.

Trump’s job approval rating also climbed to 49% from 44% in the previous Gallup poll, which was conducted earlier in March. That tied his previous high with Gallup, which he reached amid his impeachment battle and eventual acquittal. His lowest job approval mark with Gallup was 35%, which he reached in four 2017 polls.

Notably, Trump’s approval jumped 8 percentage points among independents and 6 points among Democrats from the previous poll, which Gallup noted was unusual for the politically polarizing president. The polling outfit attributed that climb to a “rally effect” often seen when the nation is in crisis.

“Historically, presidential job approval has increased when the nation is under threat,” Gallup said. “Every president from Franklin Roosevelt through George W. Bush saw their approval rating surge at least 10 points after a significant national event of this kind. Bush’s 35-point increase after 9/11 is the most notable rally effect on record.”

The poll was conducted from March 13-22 from a random sample of 1,020 adults. Its margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.

– William Cummings

Trump attacks Romney after Utah senator tests negative for coronavirus

President Donald Trump greeted reports that Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, tested negative for coronavirus by saying “great news!” – though he then proceeded to trash his political rival in a tweet.

“I am so happy I can barely speak,” Trump tweeted. “He may have been a terrible presidential candidate and an even worse U.S. Senator, but he is a RINO, and I like him a lot!”

RINO is slang for “Republican In Name Only.”

Romney, the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, was the only Republican lawmaker to vote in favor of an impeachment charge against Trump. Romney has also been frequently critical of the president.

After Romney announced he would go into seclusion amid coronavoirus fears, Trump told reporters Sunday: “Romney is in isolation? Gee, that’s too bad.”

– David Jackson

Package blocks Trump, other officials’ businesses from receiving stimulus money

The Senate Democratic leader says the proposed $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill would prohibit money from going to businesses controlled by President Donald Trump.

Business interests controlled by Vice President Mike Pence, members of Congress, and heads of executive departments are also prohibited “from receiving loans or investments from Treasury programs,” said a statement from the office of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Democrats had demanded such a provision in the bill, saying Trump and his family would seek to benefit from what some called a “slush fund” to be controlled by the Treasury Department. The Trump hotel and resort empire, like others, has been hit hard by the outbreak of coronavirus and the resulting shutdowns across the world.

Senators who negotiated the final proposal told reporters that a $500 billion loan and loan guarantee program would be scrutinized by an independent inspector general and an oversight board.

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Trump was asked Sunday whether his business interests could benefit from the legislation. “I have no idea what they’re talking about,” he said. “Let’s just see what happens.”

Trump also noted that his children now control his businesses. Schumer’s office said the prohibition on aid also includes “the children, spouses and in-laws.”

– David Jackson 

Contributing: The Associated Press