Text still being finalised of what is expected to be largest stimulus in US history
Lauren Gambino in Washington – The Guardian
Tempers ran high on Capitol Hill prior to the bill’s Senate passage. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images
US Senate leaders have reached a deal with the Trump administration on a nearly $2tn stimulus package to help rescue the American economy ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic as Donald Trump considers easing restrictions aimed at combating the contagion.
After days of around-the-clock negotiations amongst senators and administration officials, a bipartisan compromise was struck over what is expected to be the largest US economic stimulus measure ever passed.
“We have a deal,” said Eric Ueland, the White House legislative affairs director, just before 1am, adding that the text of the bill still needed to be completed. “We have either, clear, explicit legislative text reflecting all parties or we know exactly where we’re going to land on legislative text as we continue to finish.”
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell confirmed a deal had been reached.
The bill will then go to the House, and then to Donald Trump, who is expected to ratify it.
Tempers flared on Monday on Capitol Hill as senators grappled with the need to pass the critical aid. Democrats twice blocked efforts to move forward with a vote on the legislation, arguing the proposal did not provide strong enough protections for workers, families and healthcare providers nor did it impose strict enough restrictions on businesses that receive federal bailout money. Republicans, in turn, fumed that Democrats were playing politics in a time of crisis.
Late into the night, Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin and Ueland ironed out details with the Republican and Democratic Senate leaders.
“This is not a juicy political opportunity,” McConnell, said in a remarks from the floor on Monday. “This is a national emergency.”
The deal would provide direct payments of up to $1,200 to most adults and expand unemployment insurance. It also includes a $367bn program for small businesses, to allow them to pay employees who have to stay home due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The bill’s passage came as Trump grew impatient with his administration’s decision to impose strict restrictions on all aspects of American public life as a way to stop the spread of the virus, a move recommended by US health officials that has brought the economy grinding close to a halt.
“We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself. At the end of the 15-day period, we will make a decision as to which way we want to go,” Trump wrote in an all-caps tweet on Sunday night and shared again on Monday. The 15-day period of White House guidelines to enforce physical distancing and other measures began on 16 March.
Loosening restrictions on public activities and social distancing would defy the best advice of his administration’s health officials, including Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who warned that the US has not yet experienced the worst of the pandemic.