Mar 18, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Senate passes House coronavirus relief package with no changes

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

The Senate passed the House coronavirus relief bill 90-8 without changes Wednesday, freeing up Congress to focus more energy on passing subsequent legislation that will likely amount to one of the largest emergency spending packages in modern history.

The big picture: The deal, negotiated between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, includes free coronavirus testing — even for the uninsured; two weeks of paid sick and family leave; increased federal funds for Medicaid and food security programs, like food stamps; and increased unemployment insurance benefits.

  • The bill is considered "phase two" of Congress' coronavirus legislative efforts, and negotiations over a "phase three" deal are already underway.
  • It's still unclear how much it will cost, and the Congressional Budget Office has not yet scored it. But the Joint Committee on Taxation estimates it will cost roughly $100 billion.

Between the lines: Many senators protested the bill, arguing that it doesn't do enough for small businesses and industries hit hardest by the virus.

  • But McConnell bluntly told those senators Tuesday that they should "gag and vote for it anyway" — and to address their grievances in the next package, which the Senate is in the process of drafting.
  • The “no” votes included Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.).

What's next: McConnell said the Senate will stay in session until "phase three" is passed.

  • Senate Republicans are driving the process, and they are working with closely with Treasury and the White House to reach a deal as soon as possible.
  • Talks are still fluid, but the White House is pushing for an additional $1 trillion to be dedicated to combatting the economic effects of the virus.
  • A Treasury fact sheet proposes sending checks to many Americans and devoting $300 billion to helping small businesses.
  • The fact sheet also calls for the creation of a $50 billion “airline industry secured lending facility” that would allow it to make direct loans to “U.S. passenger and cargo air carriers.”
  • The House, which is currently in recess, does not plan to return to Capitol Hill until after the Senate passes a third bill.

Go deeper: White House proposes $1 trillion coronavirus stimulus package

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What he's saying: "This is not about the president of the United States or even the independent counsel or the inspector general. This is about focusing on how the money is spent, whether or not the people who are getting the money are actually working on behalf of the American people, or whether or not they are profiteering."

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After days of intense negotiations, the White House and Republican and Democratic Senate leaders struck a bipartisan deal early Wednesday over a $2 trillion stimulus package designed to ease the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

Why it matters: The emergency legislation that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) promised to pass later Wednesday will deliver vital aid to workers, small businesses, corporations and health care providers under strain from the illness, which has infected more than 55,000 people in the U.S. and killed more than 800.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's proposal for a "Phase 3" stimulus package in response to the coronavirus outbreak includes cash payments to many Americans and billions for small and large businesses.

Why it matters: The plan would be part of one of the largest and most expensive stimulus packages in American history.

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