WASHINGTON — 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.”
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.”
“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.
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, money for hospitals, $600 more per week in unemployment benefits for those out of work.
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.'”
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.
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.
Contributing: The Associated Press