Updated Mar 22, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Senate's trillion-dollar coronavirus stimulus bill hits speed bump

Mitch McConnell. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

After days of intense negotiations, talks between Capitol Hill leaders and the White House over a Phase 3 stimulus package to fight the coronavirus broke down on Sunday, leading to a failed cloture vote meant to move the bill forward.

Why it matters: The emergency legislation, which is expected to be one of the largest and most expensive stimulus packages in American history (it could grow beyond $2 trillion), would deliver desperately needed aid to American families, small businesses and corporations hit hardest by the virus.

  • But Democrats say Republicans aren't giving them enough to support the costly measure, diminishing hopes that a final vote would take place on Monday.

The latest: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell led a meeting this morning with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to hammer out the sticking points.

  • But Democrats left the meeting protesting that the bill is a corporate slush fund that doesn't do enough to protect workers from layoffs, gives the Treasury too much power to make its own decisions, and doesn't provide any money for state and local governments, among other complaints.
  • McConnell then pushed a 3pm vote on a motion to proceed — which requires 60 votes — to 6pm, giving the two sides more time to negotiate.
  • After a series of additional talks, the cloture vote failed along party lines 47-47, forcing the group back to the negotiating table.

Details: The deal — as it stands currently — dedicates $250 billion to go directly to Americans. Many individuals will receive $1,200 direct deposits, along with an additional $500 for each child. A family of four would receive $3,000. That money begins to phase out for Americans making more than $75,000 per year.

  • The package allots $350 billion to small businesses to help keep workers on payroll. Mnuchin said this morning that these "small business retention loans" will be forgiven.
  • The deal offers 39 weeks of unemployment insurance to eligible workers, retroactive to Jan. 27.
  • It also includes $242 billion for public safety net programs, including more money for SNAP, child nutrition and the Centers for Disease Control. Hospitals will get roughly $110 billion, according to Mnuchin.
  • The original Phase 3 bill text called for $208 billion in loans to airlines and other industries, which would have to be repaid. This number may still change.

What's next: McConnell will continue to work with Democratic leaders and the White House to reach a deal that will win enough Democratic votes to pass.

  • One the bill passes the Senate, members of the House, who have been on recess for over a week, will try to pass it via unanimous consent. If that fails, they may be forced fly back to Washington.
  • There have already been early talks of a Phase 4 deal, according to senior Senate and House aides.
  • There are no specifics yet, but Mnuchin said this morning that the legislation would provide relief for 10–12 weeks — a time frame that falls short of expectations laid out by public health officials for how long the virus will persist.

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