Congress homes in on huge rescue for virus-hit United States economy

Marco Green
March 25, 2020

"So many people are being put out of work through no fault of their own".

It followed days of vicious partisan infighting over what to include, in what ultimately may be the largest emergency rescue package lawmakers have ever passed. It could also lead to potential changes to the legislation that would have to be reconciled with the Senate.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democrats drew national ire this weekend when they rejected a tentative deal for a coronavirus relief package in favor of a new new bill filled with left-wing agenda items, but as of Tuesday afternoon there are signs Democrats might already regret the stunt. He promised that the Senate will approve the legislation later on Wednesday.

The package was aimed to combat what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had called "the most serous threat to Americans' health in over a century and quite likely the greatest risk to America's jobs and prosperity that we've seen since the Great Depression".

With viral outbreaks spreading coast to coast, hospitals have been in dire need of equipment like protective gear, intensive care beds and ventilators.

Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., negotiated through Monday night and all day Tuesday to resolve outstanding issues.

President Donald Trump called for an immediate resolution to the stalemate.

The agreement was announced by McConnell at 1:30am following several days of intense debate with the Democrats, who argued that the initial Republican proposal was skewed too much in favor of protecting big companies instead of helping workers.

"The longer it takes, the harder it will be to start up our economy".

Those shortcomings were addressed in the compromise, according to Democratic leaders. But given the fearsome nature of the coronavirus crisis, enactment of such a package - even with its $2 trillion price tag - is likely to be backed by almost all of the Republican senators as a means of salvaging both the economy and the stock market.

The second provision Democrats pushed for-stricter oversight-would rein in the Treasury Department's broad discretion to dole out $500 billion in loans and loans guarantees to corporations, a departure from Republicans' original proposal that Democrats labeled a "slush fund".

Schumer said the compromise is nearly certain to include a guarantee the federal government will pay the salaries of worked sacked or sickened due to the pandemic for four months.

Every laid-off or furloughed worker would have their salary "remunerated by the federal government", Schumer said.

"That is the expectation, that we will finish it tomorrow, and hopefully vote on it tomorrow", Mr Schumer told reporters on Monday.

She suggested the measure might even pass the House by unanimous consent.

But getting 435 lawmakers to swallow a gargantuan rescue package without a chance to weigh in could be an uphill proposition in a sharply divided chamber.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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