Pelosi expects bipartisan House vote for $2 trillion coronavirus bill Friday

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she expected the chamber to pass an estimated $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill when it meets on Friday, after the Senate overwhelmingly approved the unprecedented economic rescue legislation Wednesday evening.

“Tomorrow we’ll bring the bill to the floor. It will pass with strong bipartisan support,” Pelosi, a Democrat, told reporters.

The legislation will rush direct payments to Americans within three weeks once the Democratic-controlled House passes it and Republican President Donald Trump signs it into law, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

The Republican-led Senate approved the bill – which would be the largest fiscal stimulus measure ever passed by Congress – by 96 votes to zero late on Wednesday, overcoming bitter partisan negotiations and boosting its chances of passing the House.

The unanimous Senate vote, a rare departure from bitter partisanship in Washington that followed several days of wrangling, underscored how seriously members of Congress are taking the global pandemic as Americans suffer and the medical system reels.

“When there’s a crisis of this magnitude, the private sector cannot solve it,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said.

Related Coverage

  • Factbox: What's in the $2.2 trillion Senate coronavirus rescue package

“Individuals, even with bravery and valor, are not powerful enough to beat it back. Government is the only force large enough to staunch the bleeding and begin the healing.”

The package is intended to flood the country with cash in an effort to stem the crushing impact on the economy of an intensifying pandemic that has killed about 1,000 people in the United States and infected nearly 70,000.

Pelosi said there was no question more money would be needed to fight the coronavirus. She said House committees would be working on the next phase in the near term, even if the full chamber is not in session. She said lawmakers would need to be on call for possible votes.

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy also backs the relief plan, but said he wanted it to be allowed to work before deciding whether more legislation was needed.

“This will be probably the largest bill anybody in Congress has ever voted for,” he told reporters.

Only two other countries, China and Italy, have more coronavirus cases than the United States. The World Health Organization has warned the United States looks set to become the epicenter of the pandemic.

The American government’s intervention follows two other packages that became law this month. The money at stake amounts to nearly half of the total $4.7 trillion the federal government spends annually.

Trump, who has promised to sign the bill as soon as it passes the House, expressed his delight on Twitter. “96-0 in the United States Senate. Congratulations AMERICA!” he wrote.

Pelosi said House leaders were planning a voice vote on the rescue plan on Friday, but said leaders would be prepared for other contingencies. She had said a day earlier that if there were calls for a vote recorded by name, lawmakers might be able to vote by proxy, as not all would attend.

“If somebody has a different point of view (about the bill), they can put it in the record,” she said, referring to the Congressional Record.

McCarthy predicted the measure would pass Friday morning following a debate.

The massive bill, worth more than $2 trillion, includes a $500 billion fund to help hard-hit industries and a comparable amount for direct payments of up to $3,000 apiece to millions of families.

The legislation will also provide $350 billion for small-business loans, $250 billion for expanded unemployment aid and at least $100 billion for hospitals and related health systems.

The House has 430 members, most of whom have been out of Washington since March 14. Many want to return for the vote, but for all to attend would be difficult, given that at least two have tested positive for the coronavirus, a handful of others are in self-quarantine, and several states have issued stay-at-home orders. There are five vacant House seats.

The Senate’s No. 2 Republican, John Thune, missed Wednesday’s vote because he was not feeling well. His spokesman said Thune, 59, flew back to his state, South Dakota, on a charter flight Wednesday, accompanied by a Capitol Police officer and wearing a mask.

Source: Read Full Article

Historic $2.2 trillion coronavirus bill passes U.S. House, becomes law

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday approved a $2.2 trillion aid package – the largest in history – to help cope with the economic downturn inflicted by the intensifying coronavirus pandemic, and President Donald Trump quickly signed it into law.

The massive bill passed the Senate and House of Representatives nearly unanimously. The rare bipartisan action underscored how seriously Republican and Democratic lawmakers are taking the global pandemic that has killed more than 1,500 Americans and shaken the nation’s medical system.

“Our nation faces an economic and health emergency of historic proportions due to the coronavirus pandemic, the worst pandemic in over 100 years,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at the close of a three-hour debate before the lower chamber approved the bill. “Whatever we do next, right now we’re going to pass this legislation.”

The massive bill also rushes billions of dollars to medical providers on the front lines of the outbreak.

But the bipartisan spirit seemed to end at the White House. Neither Pelosi nor Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer was invited to Trump’s all-Republican signing ceremony for the bill, aides said.

Their Republican counterparts, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, did attend, along with three Republican House members.

“This will deliver urgently needed relief to our nation’s families, workers and businesses,” Trump said. “I really think in a fairly short period of time … we’ll be stronger than ever.”

Related Coverage

  • Factbox: What's in the $2.2 trillion U.S. coronavirus rescue package
  • Factbox: 'Mr. No': Meet the U.S. congressman who requested a formal vote to delay the coronavirus bill

The Democratic-led House approved the package on a voice vote, turning back a procedural challenge from Republican Representative Thomas Massie, who had sought to force a formal, recorded vote.

To keep Massie’s gambit from delaying the bill’s passage, hundreds of lawmakers from both parties returned to Washington despite the risk of contracting coronavirus. For many, that meant long drives or overnight flights.

One member who spent hours in a car was Republican Representative Greg Pence, the brother of Vice President Mike Pence, whom Trump has put in charge of efforts to handle the coronavirus crisis.

Pence drove the nearly 600 miles (966 km) from his home state, Indiana, to Washington on Thursday. “We can’t afford to wait another minute,” he said on Twitter.

‘THIRD RATE GRANDSTANDER’

Massie wrote on Twitter that he thought the bill contained too much extraneous spending and gave too much power to the Federal Reserve, the U.S. central bank. His fellow lawmakers overruled his request for a recorded vote.

Trump attacked Massie on Twitter, calling him a “third rate Grandstander” and saying he should be thrown out of the Republican party. “He just wants the publicity,” wrote the president, who last week began pushing for urgent action on coronavirus after long downplaying the risk.

Democratic and Republican leaders had asked members to return to Washington to ensure there would be enough present to head off Massie’s gambit. The session was held under special rules to limit the spread of the disease among members.

At least five members of Congress have tested positive for the coronavirus and more than two dozen have self-quarantined to limit its spread.

The Senate, which approved the bill in a unanimous vote late on Wednesday, has adjourned and is not scheduled to return to Washington until April 20.

Democratic and Republican House leaders appeared together at a news conference at the Capitol to celebrate the bill’s passage — an unusual event for a chamber that is normally sharply divided along partisan lines.

“The virus is here. We did not ask for it, we did not invite it. We did not choose it. But with the passing of the bill you will see that we will fight it together, and we will win together,” McCarthy said.

He did not say whether Massie would face any disciplinary measures from the party.

The rescue package is the largest fiscal relief measure ever passed by Congress.

The $2.2 trillion measure includes $500 billion to help hard-hit industries and $290 billion for payments of up to $3,000 to millions of families.

It will also provide $350 billion for small-business loans, $250 billion for expanded unemployment aid and at least $100 billion for hospitals and related health systems.

The number of coronavirus cases in the United States exceeded 100,000 on Friday, according to a Reuters tally, the most of any country.

Adding to the misery, the Labor Department reported the number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits surged to 3.28 million, the highest level ever.

Source: Read Full Article

U.S. Senate passes $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly backed a $2 trillion bill aimed at helping unemployed workers and industries hurt by the coronavirus epidemic, as well as providing billions of dollars to buy urgently needed medical equipment.

After bitter negotiations, the deeply divided Senate came together and passed the bill by a unanimous 96-0 vote, which sent the massive stimulus package to the House of Representatives, which could vote sometime this week.

President Donald Trump, whose top aides helped negotiate the bipartisan measure, promised to sign it into law as soon as it reaches his desk. “I will sign it immediately,” Trump told reporters on Wednesday.

The massive bill – which would be the largest economic stimulus measure ever passed by Congress – includes a $500 billion fund to help hard-hit industries and a comparable amount for direct payments of up to $3,000 apiece to millions of U.S. families.

The package is intended to flood the economy with cash in a bid to stem the impact of an intensifying epidemic that has killed more than 900 people in the United States and infected at least 60,000.

Only two other nations, China and Italy, have more coronavirus cases and the World Health Organization has warned the United States looks set to become the epicenter of the global coronavirus pandemic.

Top aides to Trump and senior senators from both parties announced that they had agreed on the unprecedented stimulus bill in the early hours of Wednesday after five days of talks.

But it was delayed by criticism from both the right and left on Wednesday, pushing the final vote on passage almost another full day.

Several Republican senators had insisted the bill needed to be changed to ensure that laid-off workers would not be paid more in unemployment benefits than they earned on the job. However, an amendment that would have changed the unemployment provision failed just before the Senate approved the measure.

(Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: open tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.)

Source: Read Full Article

Mnuchin expresses hope a deal is 'very close' on $2 trillion coronavirus aid package in U.S. Senate

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A far-reaching coronavirus economic stimulus package remained stalled in the U.S. Senate on Monday as lawmakers haggled over its provisions, but the U.S. Treasury secretary voiced confidence a deal would be reached soon.

Democrats said the $2 trillion measure contained too little money for states and hospitals and not enough restrictions on a fund to help big businesses.

A 49-46 vote fell short of the 60 votes needed to advance, as the Republican-controlled chamber remained deadlocked for a second day. Only one Democrat, Senator Doug Jones, voted with Republicans to advance the bill.

Congress has already passed two packages of legislation to blunt the economic toll of the pandemic, which has killed more than 550 people in the United States and sickened more than 43,800, thrown millions out of work and led state governors to order nearly a third of the nation’s population to stay at home.

Tempers frayed as Republicans accused Democrats of obstruction during a national emergency, but negotiators from both parties and Republican President Donald Trump’s administration continued meeting in private rooms where they have spent days trying to agree on a relief package.

“Why are the American people still waiting? Why are Democrats filibustering the bipartisan bill they helped write?” Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

Democrats insisted it needed to include more oversight provisions for a $500 billion fund to help large businesses.

Trump was asked at a White House briefing who would provide oversight of how the funds are used, and responded that he would. “I’ll be the oversight,” he told reporters.

Democrats said they thought an agreement was close.

“Take a deep breath. We’re gonna pass this bill,” Senator Dick Durbin, the chamber’s No 2 Democrat, said.

‘VERY CLOSE’

But talks continued.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the Trump administration’s point person on coronavirus legislation, shuttled in and out of Senate leaders’ offices.

“I think we’re very close,” Mnuchin told reporters. “We’re trying to finish it up tonight.”

Trump’s administration launched a major push last week for action to blunt the economic impact – and steep stock market decline – from the pandemic, after Trump himself spent several weeks dismissing the virus’ risks.

The Senate measure includes financial aid for ordinary Americans, small businesses and critically affected industries, such as airlines.

Republicans said Democrats were seeking to add unrelated provisions, such as expanded tax credits for wind and solar power and increased leverage for labor unions.

Democrats said Republicans were trying to add provisions that would exclude nonprofit groups from receiving small-business aid, and extend a sexual abstinence-education program that is due to expire in May.

Democratic House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi released her own version, which would add billions of dollars to help states conduct elections by mail.

Republicans normally hold a slim 53-47 majority in the chamber, short of the 60 votes they need to advance most legislation. But the coronavirus has trimmed their ranks, making it even harder to advance legislation without significant support from Democrats.

Republican Senator Rand Paul said on Sunday he tested positive for the virus. But since he kept circulating on Capitol Hill after getting tested, including an alleged visit to the Senate gym, several other Republicans decided to self-quarantine as a precautionary measure.

Paul said he would not even know he had contracted the disease if he had not ignored recommendations and sought testing. “The broader the testing and the less finger-pointing we have, the better,” he said in a statement.

Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar said her husband, John Bessler, contracted pneumonia and coughed up blood after contracting the disease. She said she was not at risk because she had not seen him in person for two weeks.

Source: Read Full Article

'Dilly-dallying around': Coronavirus relief again falls short in U.S. Senate vote

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A far-reaching coronavirus economic stimulus package failed to advance in the U.S. Senate on Monday as Democrats said it contained too little money for hospitals and not enough restrictions on a fund to help big businesses.

The 49-46 vote left the sweeping measure short of the 60 votes needed to advance, as the chamber remained deadlocked for a second day.

Tempers frayed as Republicans accused Democrats of obstruction during a national emergency.

“The country is burning and your side wants to play political games,” said Republican Senator John Thune, who angrily accused Democrats of “dilly-dallying around.”

Democrats said they were close to an agreement with Republicans and predicted a modified version would win passage soon.

“Take a deep breath. We’re gonna pass this bill,” Democratic Senator Dick Durbin said.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who estimated the bill would cost $2 trillion, said before the vote that the two sides were making progress.

“We knocked off a bunch of things on the list already and we’re closing in on issues,” Mnuchin told reporters after exiting Schumer’s office. He did not give specific.

U.S. stocks fell on Monday as the coronavirus forced more states into lockdown, eclipsing optimism from an unprecedented round of policy easing by the Federal Reserve.

The bill represents a third effort by Congress to blunt the economic toll of the pandemic that has killed at least 428 people in the United States and sickened more than 34,000, leading state governors to order nearly a third of the nation’s population to stay at home and putting much business activity on hold.

The measure includes financial aid for ordinary Americans, small businesses and critically affected industries, including airlines.

Republicans said Democrats were seeking to add unrelated provisions, such as expanded tax credits for wind and solar power and increased leverage for labor unions.

Democrats said Republicans were also trying to add provisions that would exclude nonprofit groups from receiving small-business aid, and extend a sexual abstinence-education program that is due to expire in May.

The speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, released her own version, which would add billions of dollars to help states conduct elections by mail.

Republicans normally hold a slim 53-47 majority in the chamber, short of the 60 votes they need to advance most legislation.

But the coronavirus threat has affected their ranks. Republican Senator Rand Paul said he tested positive for the virus on Sunday, and several others have self-quarantined as a precautionary measure. Republicans only mustered 47 votes in Sunday’s procedural vote.

Source: Read Full Article

Top Senate Republican sees Monday coronavirus vote, Pelosi plans own bill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. lawmakers sent mixed signals on Sunday about whether they are near a deal on legislation to try to limit the economic toll of the coronavirus, with a Republican predicting a vote on Monday and a top Democrat saying she would introduce her own bill.

“We’re working toward bringing this together. I think it’s safe to say we’re very close,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told a news conference after an hour of talks with top lawmakers, saying he expected a Senate vote on Monday.

“We will be introducing our own bill,” Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said earlier as she left the meeting, while adding negotiators were still talking and that she hoped for a bipartisan agreement.

The bill, Congress’s third effort to blunt the economic hit, envisages financial aid for average Americans, small businesses and critically affected industries including airlines.

Among the areas likely to generate controversy are those aimed at helping corporations, rather than workers, weather the crisis, as well as provisions on whether to allow companies to buy back their own stock.

The virus has killed at least 380 and sickened more than 25,000 across the United States, leading governors and mayors to shut schools, businesses and many aspects of American life.

Over the past week President Donald Trump’s administration has been pushing for aggressive steps to stem the economic hit, after Trump spent several weeks downplaying the virus’ risks. Prominent Democrats on Sunday pushed back on the idea of propping up corporate America with the bill.

Earlier, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin predicted the White House and Congress would reach an agreement and Republican Senator Pat Toomey suggested there would be little opposition.

“I think it’ll be very hard to vote against this,” Toomey told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

During his news conference, McConnell suggested the differences were just part of the usual jockeying in Congress.

“It’s still some elbowing and maneuvering for room as you can imagine, but this is a pretty solidly bi-partisan proposal agreed to by a lot of rank and file Democrats who were involved in drafting it,” McConnell told reporters. “At some point here, we’ll have to stop and that’ll be the bill we vote on and in my opinion that’ll be tomorrow.”

Source: Read Full Article

U.S. Senate will seek deal on $1 trillion coronavirus economic aid package

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced emergency legislation on Thursday to stem the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, and Republicans and Democrats agreed to meet on Friday to seek an agreement.

The $1 trillion-plus package will include direct financial help for Americans, relief for small businesses and their employees, steps to stabilize the economy and new support for healthcare professionals and coronavirus patients, McConnell said.

“We are ready to act as soon as agreement with our colleagues across the aisle can be reached,” he said on the Senate floor. “The Senate is not going anywhere until we take action.”

A vote could still be days away, said Republican Senator Lamar Alexander.

McConnell also said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow would be on Capitol Hill on Friday to work with lawmakers from both parties toward an agreement.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said Democrats were ready.

“We look forward to working with them to come up with a bipartisan product,” he said. But he stressed any “bailout” of industries must be aimed at helping workers, not executives or shareholders.

In a joint statement, Schumer and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the Republican bill “is not at all pro-worker and instead puts corporations way ahead of workers.”

Senator Patrick Leahy, the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a statement the bill did not adequately fund federal, state and local efforts against the coronavirus and “contains no funding for first responders, child care, schools, help for the homeless, or veterans medical care.”

The package is the third taken up by Congress since the coronavirus erupted in the United States, infecting 12,259 people and killing 200, shutting schools, businesses and wide swaths of American life, and sending the stock market into a tailspin.

A key plank is a direct payment of up to $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for couples below a certain income threshold, along with $500 for each child in the family, a Senate Finance Committee statement said.

The maximum payments would be for those individuals earning no more than $75,000, and $150,000 for a couple, it said. Above those levels, payments would be reduced, and totally phased out at $99,000 for an individual and $198,000 for couples.

LOANS FOR AIRLINES

The bill also includes $208 billion for industries. That breaks down to $58 billion for airlines, and $150 billion for “other eligible entities,” a Republican statement said. All of this money would be in the form of loans and loan guarantees.

For small businesses, a key Republican constituency, the bill includes $299.4 billion for loan guarantees and loan subsidies.

Under the legislation, taxpayers would be given more time to file their 2019 tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service. The traditional April 15 filing deadline would be moved to July 15, the Finance Committee said.

Healthcare provisions of the bill include expanding testing for the virus, hiring more healthcare workers and speeding the development of new vaccines and treatments. The measure would also allow students to defer payments on student loans, Alexander said in a statement.

Trump sharply changed his tone on the risks posed by the virus this week, after long downplaying them, and started talking about sending Americans $1,000 checks.

Not all Republicans were keen on the idea.

“Just a blanket cash check to everybody in America that’s making up to $75,000? I don’t know the logic of that,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby said before the bill was announced.

Leaders in the Democratic-controlled House are trying to work out new voting procedures that would allow them to reconvene without endangering members after Utah Democrat Ben McAdams and Florida Republican Mario Diaz-Balart tested positive for the virus.

Several other House lawmakers, including Republican whip Steve Scalise, were in self-quarantine after having been in contact with someone who had tested positive for the virus. Pelosi said she had asked the Rules Committee chairman, Representative Jim McGovern, to review how members vote in the chamber.

Congress passed an $8.3 billion measure earlier this month to combat the coronavirus outbreak and develop vaccines for the highly contagious disease.

On Wednesday, lawmakers approved and Trump signed a $105 billion-plus plan to limit the damage through free testing, paid sick leave and expanded safety-net spending.

Source: Read Full Article

U.S. Senate will seek deal on $1 trillion coronavirus economic aid package

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced emergency legislation on Thursday to stem the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, and Republicans and Democrats agreed to meet on Friday to seek an agreement.

The $1 trillion-plus package will include direct financial help for Americans, relief for small businesses and their employees, steps to stabilize the economy and new support for healthcare professionals and coronavirus patients, McConnell said.

“We are ready to act as soon as agreement with our colleagues across the aisle can be reached,” he said on the Senate floor. “The Senate is not going anywhere until we take action.”

A vote could still be days away, said Republican Senator Lamar Alexander.

McConnell also said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow would be on Capitol Hill on Friday to work with lawmakers from both parties toward an agreement.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said Democrats were ready.

“We look forward to working with them to come up with a bipartisan product,” he said. But he stressed any “bailout” of industries must be aimed at helping workers, not executives or shareholders.

In a joint statement, Schumer and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the Republican bill “is not at all pro-worker and instead puts corporations way ahead of workers.”

Senator Patrick Leahy, the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a statement the bill did not adequately fund federal, state and local efforts against the coronavirus and “contains no funding for first responders, child care, schools, help for the homeless, or veterans medical care.”

The package is the third taken up by Congress since the coronavirus erupted in the United States, infecting 12,259 people and killing 200, shutting schools, businesses and wide swaths of American life, and sending the stock market into a tailspin.

A key plank is a direct payment of up to $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for couples below a certain income threshold, along with $500 for each child in the family, a Senate Finance Committee statement said.

The maximum payments would be for those individuals earning no more than $75,000, and $150,000 for a couple, it said. Above those levels, payments would be reduced, and totally phased out at $99,000 for an individual and $198,000 for couples.

LOANS FOR AIRLINES

The bill also includes $208 billion for industries. That breaks down to $58 billion for airlines, and $150 billion for “other eligible entities,” a Republican statement said. All of this money would be in the form of loans and loan guarantees.

For small businesses, a key Republican constituency, the bill includes $299.4 billion for loan guarantees and loan subsidies.

Under the legislation, taxpayers would be given more time to file their 2019 tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service. The traditional April 15 filing deadline would be moved to July 15, the Finance Committee said.

Healthcare provisions of the bill include expanding testing for the virus, hiring more healthcare workers and speeding the development of new vaccines and treatments. The measure would also allow students to defer payments on student loans, Alexander said in a statement.

Trump sharply changed his tone on the risks posed by the virus this week, after long downplaying them, and started talking about sending Americans $1,000 checks.

Not all Republicans were keen on the idea.

“Just a blanket cash check to everybody in America that’s making up to $75,000? I don’t know the logic of that,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby said before the bill was announced.

Leaders in the Democratic-controlled House are trying to work out new voting procedures that would allow them to reconvene without endangering members after Utah Democrat Ben McAdams and Florida Republican Mario Diaz-Balart tested positive for the virus.

Several other House lawmakers, including Republican whip Steve Scalise, were in self-quarantine after having been in contact with someone who had tested positive for the virus. Pelosi said she had asked the Rules Committee chairman, Representative Jim McGovern, to review how members vote in the chamber.

Congress passed an $8.3 billion measure earlier this month to combat the coronavirus outbreak and develop vaccines for the highly contagious disease.

On Wednesday, lawmakers approved and Trump signed a $105 billion-plus plan to limit the damage through free testing, paid sick leave and expanded safety-net spending.

Source: Read Full Article