Senate OKs $2.2 trillion rescue plan
House to clear measure on Friday in a sparsely attended voice vote
The legislation will pour $1,200 direct payments to individuals and a flood of subsidized loans, grants and tax breaks to businesses facing extinction in an economic shutdown caused as Americans self-isolate by the tens of millions.
WASHINGTON — With rare bipartisanship and speed, Washington is about to deliver massive, unprecedented legislation to speed help to individuals and businesses as the coronavirus pandemic takes a devastating toll on the U.S. economy and health care system.
The House is set to pass the sprawling, $2.2 trillion measure Friday morning after an extraordinary 96-0 Senate vote late
Wednesday. President Donald Trump marveled at the unanimity Thursday and is eager to sign the package into law.
The relief can hardly come soon enough. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Thursday the economy “may well be in recession” already and the government reported a shocking 3.3 million burst of weekly jobless claims, more than four times the previous record. The U.S. death toll has surpassed 1,000 from the virus.
It is unlikely to be the end of the federal response. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that issues like more generous food stamp payments, aid to state and local governments, and family leave may be revisited in subsequent legislation.
“There’s so many things we didn’t get in ... that we need to,” Pelosi told reporters Thursday.
The legislation will pour $1,200 direct payments to individuals and a flood of subsidized loans, grants and tax breaks to businesses facing extinction in an economic shutdown caused as Americans self-isolate by the tens of millions. It dwarfs prior Washington efforts to take on economic crises and natural disasters, such as the 2008 Wall Street bailout and President Barack Obama’s first-year economic recovery act.
But key elements are untested, such as grants to small businesses to keep workers on payroll and complex lending programs to larger businesses. Millions of payments will go to people who have retained their jobs.
First, the measure must clear Congress. Friday’s House vote will be unusual as the normally raucous chamber promises to pass the measure with a sparsely attended voice vote — remarkable for a bill of such magnitude — so scattered lawmakers don’t have to risk exposure by traveling back to Washington.
Friday’s House session will also be unprecedented. Originally scheduled as a nonworking “pro forma” meeting, the
session will be extended to a debate on the bill — all conducted under social distancing rules to minimize the risk of transmitting the virus — with a voice vote for passage.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, one of the House’s conservative leaders, said he wasn’t aware of anyone planning to block a voice vote Friday but planned to talk more with colleagues before the vote.
“If that’s the method used to get this to the American people, to get this passed, then I think lots of members are probably OK with that,” Jordan said Thursday as he drove back to Washington. “I know the plan is for it to be a voice vote, and that’s what the leadership has said they’re for, and I think that’s fine.”
The $2.2 trillion estimate is the White House’s best guess of the spending it contains.
The rescue bill would provide one-time direct payments to Americans of $1,200 per adult making up to $75,000 a year and $2,400 to a married couple making up to $150,000, with $500 payments per child.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said Thursday that the relief package deliberately classified Washington, D.C., as a territory instead of a state, which means the city will get less than half the funding it was expecting.
Van Hollen said he didn’t know how D.C. got lumped in with five U.S. territories. The city is almost always treated like a full-fledged state by the federal government when it comes to grants, highway funding, education dollars and food assistance.
He said he would try to ensure the District receives the money it believes it was due retroactively, as well as in a future relief package.
“I was enraged by the fact that the District of Columbia was going to be shortchanged,” Van Hollen said in an interview.
“I immediately talked to Senator Schumer about it and was told that the Republicans had insisted on the formula the way it was in the bill,” he said, referring to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
Asked why D.C. is not treated like a state in the bill, a spokesman for Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said: “Because Washington, D.C., is not a state. One can debate whether or not it should be, but that’s a separate discussion.”