Senate Plans Vote on $2 Trillion Stimulus Bill After Sealing Bipartisan Deal
The Senate on Wednesday moved toward a vote on a sweeping, roughly $2 trillion measure to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, after Democrats and Republicans reached a deal with the Trump administration on direct payments and jobless benefits for individuals, money for states and a huge bailout fund for businesses.
The legislation, which is expected to be enacted within days, is the biggest fiscal stimulus package in modern American history, aimed at delivering support to companies forced to shut their doors, relief to Americans suffering layoffs and financial ruin, and critical aid to hospitals on the front lines of the rapidly spreading disease.
The compromise was a package whose sheer size and scope would have been unthinkable only a couple of weeks ago. It touched virtually every aspect of American life, and amounted to hundreds of billions of dollars more than Congress provides for the entire United States federal budget for a single year, outside of social safety net programs. Administration officials said they hoped that its effect on a battered economy would be exponentially greater, as much as $4 trillion.
“This is not a moment of celebration, but one of necessity,” Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, said as he outlined the changes his party had secured in the legislation. “To all Americans I say, ‘Help is on the way.’”
Struck after midnight, the deal was the product of a marathon set of negotiations among Senate Republicans, Democrats and President Trump’s team that nearly fell apart as Democrats insisted on stronger worker protections and oversight over a new $500 billion fund to bail out distressed businesses. It was completed after a furious final round of haggling between Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, and Mr. Schumer after Democrats twice blocked action on the measure as they insisted on concessions.
“At last, we have a deal,” Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, announced on the Senate floor about 1:30 a.m. “In effect, this is a wartime level of investment into our nation.”
Lawmakers and aides were still drafting portions of the bill early Wednesday morning, and were expected to reveal the full bill before a vote that would take place sometime after the Senate reconvenes at noon. Leaders anticipated lopsided bipartisan support.
On a conference call Wednesday morning, Mr. McConnell told Republican senators that the timing of a vote was unclear, but that he hoped the measure could be wrapped up Wednesday, according to a person on the call who spoke on the condition of anonymity to relate the private conversation.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi quickly endorsed the deal, but was weighing how best to pass it through the House while the chamber is not in session and its members are scattered across the country, some in places that have imposed travel restrictions and quarantines. She lined up five conference calls throughout the day to brief Democrats on its contents, and aides said a final vote to clear it for Mr. Trump was expected on Thursday.