The Senate appeared back on track to vote on a sweeping package designed to cushion the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on Americans, after hitting a snag late Wednesday.
The bill is worth $2 trillion and would provide $1,200 direct payments to adults making up to $75,000 a year, offer $350 billion in loans to small businesses and set up a $500 billion fund to lend to industries, cities and states. The measure would go to the House of Representatives if the Senate backs it.
“Our nation needed us to go big, and go fast,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in Wednesday-morning remarks on the Senate floor. He predicted the measure would pass later in the day.
“Big help, quick help, is on the way,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, had previously said the House could pass the bill by so-called unanimous consent. But late Wednesday she said she didn’t believe that option — which requires every lawmaker to agree — would work. She said in an interview with PBS that she was open to a roll-call vote if a member wants one.
Henrietta Treyz of Veda Partners said she anticipated the House would pass the bill Thursday night or Friday, and that President Donald Trump would sign the bill perhaps by Saturday.
Republican senators, including Ben Sasse of Nebraska, identified what they said may be an error in the bill involving unemployment benefits. Furloughed workers would get an extra $600 a week under the bill, which the senators said could create an incentive for staying laid off.
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, said he would put a hold on the bill unless the Republican senators dropped their objections. Late Wednesday, however, a deal had reportedly been cut to offer an amendment to satisfy Sasse and fellow GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Tim Scott of South Carolina and Rick Scott of Florida. That amendment was expected to fail, Politico wrote, allowing senators to turn to final passage, sending it over to the House.
The threat by Sanders saw stocks pare gains in the final half hour of trading, with stocks finishing well off their highs.
With economic activity dramatically winding down across much of the country, Trump is seeking to have it “opened up” by Easter, which falls on April 12. The president has said he would evaluate the administration’s coronavirus containment strategy early next week after a 15-day period elapses. The goal of that initiative was to encourage social distancing.
Speaking at the White House, Trump urged the House to pass the bill and said “I will sign it immediately.”
Governors and health experts have pushed back on Trump’s timeline as new coronavirus cases continue to rise.
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