Se­nate OKs $2.2 tril­lion res­cue plan

House to clear mea­sure on Fri­day in a sparsely at­tended voice vote

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - NATION & WORLD - BY AN­DREW TAY­LOR

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.”

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