US govt, Senate reach deal on massive $2 trillion coronavirus spending bill

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WASHINGTON D.C., Mar 25, 2020, NBC. The White House and Senate leaders reached an agreement early Wednesday on a massive $2 trillion coronavirus spending bill aimed at alleviating the economic impact of the outbreak, NBC News reported.

“At last, we have a deal. After days of intense discussions, the Senate has reached a bipartisan agreement on a historic relief package for this pandemic,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced from the Senate floor shortly before 2 a.m. Wednesday. “In effect, this is a wartime level of investment for our nation.”

McConnell said he expected the Senate to pass the legislation later Wednesday after it returns at noon ET.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said: “We have a bipartisan agreement on the largest rescue package in American history. This is not a moment of celebration but one of necessity.”

Although the full text of the bill is not yet known, lawmakers indicated Tuesday that it would include the Republicans’ initial proposal for direct cash payments to Americans.

Under the plan, people making up to $75,000 a year are expected to receive checks for $1,200. Couples making up to $150,000 would receive $2,400, with an additional $500 per child. The new agreement removed the phased-in provision that would have excluded lower-income Americans from receiving the full benefit.

The payments would decrease for those making more than $75,000, with an income cap of $99,000 per individual or $198,000 for couples.

The bill is also expected to include roughly $100 billion in assistance for hospitals; $350 billion in assistance to small businesses; $500 billion in aid for corporations, including airline companies and cruise lines, that have been hurt by the outbreak; and about $150 billion for state and local stimulus funds.

Unemployment insurance would also be significantly bolstered to increase payments and extend the benefit to those who typically do not qualify, such as gig economy workers, furloughed employees and freelancers.

McConnell introduced the Republican proposal Thursday evening, giving lawmakers less than a week to negotiate a deal, draft legislative text and schedule a vote.

Negotiations, however, came to a head over how much additional unemployment insurance should be extended, as well as aid for distressed corporations. Schumer said the initial Republican plan would not dedicate enough money to hospitals, and he called for a “Marshall Plan” for the health care system.

Senators, along with representatives from the White House, huddled in the Capitol over the weekend and early this week to hammer out a deal.

Legislation rarely moves this rapidly in Washington, especially a bill of this size. But both parties appeared motivated to act quickly as unemployment numbers continue to rise and more businesses are forced to close their doors.

Tensions flared earlier in the week as the White House and Republican leadership fell short of their goal to have a bill on the president’s desk by Monday.

The House, whose members are at home in their districts, is now deciding how it will vote on the bill. Two members announced last week that they had been diagnosed with the coronavirus, forcing a handful of their colleagues who had been in close contact to self-isolate for the recommended two weeks. House leadership was exploring voting by unanimous consent and other alternatives before the deal was announced.

On Sunday, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., announced that he had also been diagnosed with the coronavirus, sending some colleagues who had been in close contact with him during negotiations over the weekend back home to self-quarantine.

If it is passed, the spending package would be the third round of emergency legislation that Congress has approved to combat the outbreak. Lawmakers approved an $8.3 billion bill for health agencies and a roughly $100 billion bill aimed at providing free coronavirus testing, some paid leave and unemployment benefits, as well as additional Medicaid funding and food assistance.

President Donald Trump signed the first two bills into law and is expected to sign the third bill, too.

Lauren Egan is a reporter for NBC News based in Washington. Julie Tsirkin is an associate producer for NBC News’ Capitol Hill team.

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