Fox News reports White House and Senate leaders reached a historic deal shortly after midnight Wednesday on a massive $2 trillion coronavirus relief package for workers and businesses, although support in the House of Representatives remained uncertain as one member openly criticized the plan.
The bipartisan breakthrough in the Senate capped 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. 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 noon 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.”
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