Trump vows to OK huge stim­u­lus pack­age

Se­nate ap­pears poised to pass un­prece­dented $2-tril­lion ‘emer­gency re­lief ’ bill to help U.S. cope with pan­demic.

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Sarah D. Wire

WASH­ING­TON — As the Se­nate moves to­ward a his­toric vote, Pres­i­dent Trump said Wed­nes­day he would sign a $2-tril­lion eco­nomic stim­u­lus pack­age — the largest ever — de­signed to pump money di­rectly into Amer­i­cans’ pock­ets while also shor­ing up hos­pi­tals, busi­nesses and state and lo­cal gov­ern­ments strug­gling against the coro­n­avirus pan­demic.

The $2-tril­lion price tag is equal to more than half of the $3.5 tril­lion the fed­eral govern­ment ex­pects to col­lect in taxes this year, and is 9% of the na­tion’s gross do­mes­tic prod­uct.

“It’s go­ing to take care of peo­ple,” Trump said of the leg­is­la­tion dur­ing a news con­fer­ence, vow­ing to sign the bill im­me­di­ately.

The Se­nate was ex­pected to ap­prove the mea­sure Wed­nes­day evening. A de­lay was caused in part by con­cerns from Sen. Lind­sey Graham (R-S.C.) and a hand­ful of Repub­li­can sen­a­tors that laid-off low-wage earn­ers in some states might be able to tem­po­rar­ily col­lect more from the ex­panded un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance in the bill than from their orig­i­nal salaries, cre­at­ing a dis­in­cen­tive to work.

But Trea­sury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said most Amer­i­cans would opt to keep their jobs, ad­ding that the pro­vi­sion was needed to stream­line the process of get­ting aid to work­ers na­tion­wide.

“Our ex­pec­ta­tion is this bill passes tonight,” said Mnuchin, who took part in five days of tense, marathon ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween congressio­nal Democrats and Se­nate Repub­li­cans.

The sweep­ing pack­age will af­fect a broad swath of Amer­i­can so­ci­ety, with some el­e­ments po­ten­tially last­ing longer than the health cri­sis.

Along with pro­vid­ing a one-time di­rect pay­out of up to $1,200 for most Amer­i­can adults, the bill in­cludes $500 bil­lion in loans to strug­gling busi­nesses, $377 bil­lion in loans and grants for small busi­nesses, $150 bil­lion for lo­cal, state and tribal gov­ern­ments strug­gling with a drop in rev­enue and $130 bil­lion for hos­pi­tals.

The pack­age also blocks fore­clo­sures and evic­tions dur­ing the cri­sis on prop­er­ties where the fed­eral govern­ment backs the mort­gage; pauses fed­eral stu­dent

loan pay­ments for six months and waives the in­ter­est; gives states mil­lions of dol­lars to be­gin of­fer­ing mail or early vot­ing; and pro­vides more than $25 bil­lion in new money for food as­sis­tance pro­grams like SNAP.

The real test will be whether the House ac­cepts the bill as it is, and can pass it with “unan­i­mous con­sent,” a pro­ce­dure usu­ally re­served for small, non­con­tro­ver­sial bills. If a sin­gle mem­ber comes to the House floor and ob­jects, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (DSan Fran­cisco) may have to re­call House mem­bers to Wash­ing­ton for a vote that would draw out the process.

Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can House lead­ers are hop­ing to avoid that, but it re­mains to be seen whether they can. A House vote is un­likely be­fore Thurs­day or perhaps Fri­day.

Rep. Justin Amash of Michi­gan, an in­de­pen­dent who left the Repub­li­can Party last year, called the pack­age a “raw deal for the peo­ple” in a tweet shortly af­ter it was an­nounced, but clar­i­fied later in the day that he will not de­lay the bill by ob­ject­ing to unan­i­mous con­sent.

House Mi­nor­ity Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bak­ers­field) said Wed­nes­day that he sup­ports hold­ing a voice vote, which would en­sure House mem­bers don’t have to re­turn if they don’t want to for health or safety rea­sons. But if some wanted to ob­ject in per­son, they could.

“I do not be­lieve we should pass a $2-tril­lion bill by unan­i­mous con­sent,” McCarthy said.

A voice vote is gen­er­ally de­ter­mined by which side is the loud­est, as de­cided by the mem­ber pre­sid­ing over the House at the time. The los­ing side of­ten asks for a recorded vote, which would re­quire Pelosi to re­call House mem­bers from across the coun­try.

Pelosi voiced will­ing­ness

Wed­nes­day to have a voice vote.

Sev­eral House Democrats were also un­happy with the bill, say­ing it helps busi­ness at the ex­pense of peo­ple. Michi­gan Rep. Rashida Tlaib tweeted that she is an­gry the Se­nate bill doesn’t help peo­ple whose wa­ter was shut off for lack of pay­ment dur­ing the out­break.

The one-time pay­ments to Amer­i­cans will be based on ad­justed gross in­come re­ported in 2019 taxes — if they have been filed — or 2018 taxes, if they have not. The amount will de­cline grad­u­ally be­gin­ning with in­di­vid­u­als who made $75,000 or mar­ried cou­ples fil­ing jointly who made $150,000. In­di­vid­u­als mak­ing $99,000 or above or mar­ried cou­ples mak­ing $198,000 or more would re­ceive no check. Peo­ple would re­ceive an ad­di­tional $500 per child.

Mnuchin said pay­ments could ar­rive in three weeks for those who have di­rect de­posit set up with the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Service, but could take sev­eral ad­di­tional weeks for printed checks. The IRS may also re­lease the pay­ments in the form of debit cards, a Repub­li­can

aide said.

Even those who have no in­come, whose in­come comes en­tirely from nontaxable ben­e­fit pro­grams like So­cial Se­cu­rity or who file a tax re­turn only in or­der to take ad­van­tage of the re­fund­able Earned In­come Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, should get a check.

First pro­posed last week, the bill was de­layed by days of ne­go­ti­a­tions that spurred an­gry speeches and un­char­ac­ter­is­tic out­bursts on the Se­nate floor. Repub­li­cans ac­cused Democrats of drag­ging their feet and try­ing to squeeze more pri­or­i­ties into the bill while the cri­sis mounted.

“We should have passed this last Sun­day. Time was wasted,” Sen. John Bar­rasso (R-Wyo.) said.

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell (R-Ky.) said Wed­nes­day he would leave it to oth­ers to de­ter­mine whether Democrats’ changes were worth the de­lay.

“The Se­nate is go­ing to stand to­gether, act to­gether, and pass this his­toric re­lief pack­age to­day,” McCon­nell said. “The Se­nate will act to help the peo­ple of this coun­try weather this storm. This is not even a stim­u­lus pack­age. It is emer­gency re­lief.”

Democrats say they won many im­por­tant changes that made the bill more ben­e­fi­cial to peo­ple hit hard­est by the coro­n­avirus cri­sis. “To im­prove this leg­is­la­tion was worth tak­ing an ex­tra day or two,” Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.

In­cluded in the changes are:

An ex­pan­sion of who qual­i­fies for un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance to in­clude peo­ple who were fur­loughed, gig work­ers and free­lancers. It in­cluded a $600-per-week in­crease in un­em­ploy­ment pay­ments for four months on top of what states pro­vide as a base un­em­ploy­ment com­pen­sa­tion, and ex­tended the ben­e­fit to 13 weeks for peo­ple al­ready col­lect­ing un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance.

An ad­di­tional $150 bil­lion for hos­pi­tals, in­clud­ing $100 bil­lion in grants that can be used by nurs­ing homes, hos­pi­tals, clin­ics and other health­care providers scram­bling for med­i­cal sup­plies such as masks, gloves and ven­ti­la­tors.

An in­spec­tor gen­eral to over­see $500 bil­lion in loans the Trea­sury Department will dis­trib­ute to in­dus­tries af­fected by the pan­demic, and a new five-per­son congressio­nal com­mit­tee to con­duct over­sight of the fed­eral govern­ment’s spend­ing on the COVID-19 re­sponse. The orig­i­nal bill left it to the Trea­sury Department to de­ter­mine which busi­nesses get loans and al­lowed the agen­cyto wait up to six months to dis­close where the money went.

Pro­hi­bi­tion of busi­nesses con­trolled by the pres­i­dent, vice pres­i­dent, mem­bers of Congress and heads of ex­ec­u­tive branch de­part­ments from re­ceiv­ing loans or in­vest­ments from the Trea­sury pro­grams. Their chil­dren, spouses and in-laws also can­not ben­e­fit.

$400 mil­lion for states to pre­pare for the 2020 elec­tions, aimed at mak­ing it eas­ier for states to move to­ward mail bal­lot­ing and early vot­ing. It does not re­quire states to par­tic­i­pate, and is more than double the $140 mil­lion in the orig­i­nal bill.

$25 mil­lion for the John F. Kennedy Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., which is much closer to the $35 mil­lion Democrats asked for than the $1 mil­lion in the orig­i­nal Repub­li­can pro­posal.

Alex Edel­man AFP/Getty Images

“THIS IS NOT even a stim­u­lus pack­age. It is emer­gency re­lief,” said Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell (R-Ky.), seen leav­ing the Se­nate f loor Wed­nes­day.

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