By a vote of 96-0, the Senate passed a massive $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus compromise package just before midnight Wednesday, ending days of deadlock and sending the bill to the House of Representatives — which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said will soon take up the historic measure to bring relief to individuals, small businesses, and larger corporations “with strong bipartisan support.”
The 880-page legislation is the largest economic relief bill in U.S. history. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., appeared somber and exhausted as he announced the vote. He released senators from Washington until April 20, though he promised to recall them if needed.
“96-0 in the United States Senate,” President Trump wrote on Twitter. “Congratulations AMERICA!”
The unanimous vote came despite misgivings on both sides about whether it goes too far or not far enough. The vote capped days of difficult negotiations as Washington confronted a national challenge unlike any it has ever faced.
The package would provide one-time direct payments to Americans of $1,200 per adult making up to $75,000 a year, and $2,400 to married couples making up to $150,000, with $500 payments per child. After a $75,000 threshold for individuals, the benefit would be reduced by $5 for each $100 the taxpayer makes. A similar $150,000 threshold applies to couples, and a $112,500 threshold for heads of households.The legislation passed by the Senate will use 2019 tax returns, if available, or 2018 tax returns to assess income for determining how much direct financial aid individuals receive. Those who did not file tax returns can use a Form SSA-1099, Social Security Benefit Statement or Form RRB-1099, a Social Security Equivalent Benefit Statement, per Page 149 of the bill.
Further, the bill allocates $250 billion to extend unemployment insurance to more workers, and lengthen the duration to 39 weeks, up from the normal 26 weeks. $600 extra a week would be provided for four months. (Just before voting on the final package began late Wednesday, the Senate was debating an amendment from Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., to bar people from getting more from new unemployment benefits than they would have received on the job; the amendment needed 60 votes and failed 48-48.)
The final package would additionally provide $349 billion in loans to small businesses — and money spent on rent, payroll and utilities becomes grants that don’t need to be paid back. Many hotels would qualify as small businesses under the plan.
Passenger airlines would receive $25 billion for workers’ “salaries and benefits,” plus up to $25 billion more in loan guarantees and loans. Contract workers would also receive $3 billion in assistance. Airlines would have to agree not to furlough workers until at least the end of September in return.
About $17 billion will go to other distressed companies like Boeing, which is seen as essential to national security. And, approximately $200 billion would be provided in tax assistance to small businesses, including through payroll tax deferrals.
At the same time, the bill omits many — though not all — items from Pelosi’s version of the legislation that Republicans had called wasteful or irrelevant, including climate-change-related emissions restrictions for airlines and various diversity-related provisions.
But, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. and the House of Representatives would still each receive $25 million, and unions will likely benefit from provisions requiring many small businesses to stay out of union organization efforts. Those line items galled conservatives when Pelosi first floated them over the weekend, but President Trump signaled earlier in the day that they amounted to necessary compromises to move the bill along.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said the House would vote on the matter on Friday.
“Over the past few days, the Senate has stepped into the breach,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in his own remarks. “We packed weeks or perhaps months of the legislative process into five days. Representatives from both sides of the aisle and both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue have forged a bipartisan agreement in highly partisan times, with very little time to spare.”
He added: “It’s been a long, hard road, with a remarkable number of twists and turns, but for the sake of millions of Americans, it will be worth it. It will be worth it to get help to millions of small businesses and save tens of millions of jobs.”
Earlier in the day, a senior GOP source told Fox News contributor and Townhall.com editor Guy Benson that the compromise bill 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.
A senior Republican aide separately told Fox News: “I half expected that the next thing I read would be the Minority Leader taking credit for inventing fire. The reality is that almost every significant ‘win’ he’s taking credit for, is actually a Senate Republican idea.”
Republicans had “never objected” to more hospital funding, or that oversight of the stimulus stabilization fund “be structured almost exactly like TARP oversight,” the aide went on. And Republicans were the first to push for three months of unemployment insurance and “did not oppose adding a fourth.”
“What’s not in the Senate’s bipartisan coronavirus bill: Pelosi’s outrageous wish list,” wrote GOP national spokesperson Elizabeth Harrington. “0 mentions of ‘diversity.’ 0 mentions of ’emissions.’ 0 mentions of ‘early voting.’ 0 mentions of ‘climate change.’ Good!”
At the same time, the bill satisfied some of Pelosi’s policy goals. Page 524 of the bill textindicates that many businesses that take a government loan would be obligated to remain neutral in any “union organizing effort” during the loan — a major giveaway to unions. Affected businesses would have between 500 and 10,000 employees.
And, Page 781 of the bill provides $25 million to the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives to cover “salary and expenses.”
Also in the final bill text, $25 million would still be allocated for the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Trump, speaking at the White House coronavirus briefing earlier Wednesday, said that he understood the provision was necessary because Democrats demanded some concessions in order to get the stimulus bill passed.