U.S. senators will vote on Wednesday on a $2 trillion bipartisan coronavirus stimulus package to alleviate the devastating economic impact of the pandemic, hoping it will become law quickly.
Top aides to Republican President Donald Trump and senior Senate Republicans and Democrats said they had agreed on the unprecedented stimulus bill in the early hours of Wednesday after five days of marathon talks.
“Today the Senate will act to help the people of this country weather this storm,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said after the chamber convened at noon EDT.
“This is not even a stimulus package,” he said. “It is emergency relief.”
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said his party was willing to pass the bill as quickly as possible.
“Help is on the way. Big help. Quick help,” he said on the Senate floor.
Trump is ready to sign the measure into law, the White House said, but it was unclear how quickly Congress could get the package to his desk. McConnell did not say what time the Senate would hold its vote, and the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives is not expected to act before Thursday.
The massive bill includes a $500 billion fund to help hard-hit industries and a comparable amount for direct payments of up to $3,000 apiece to millions of U.S. families.
It will also include $350 billion for small-business loans, $250 billion for expanded unemployment aid and at least $100 billion for hospitals and related health systems.
It would be the largest rescue package ever approved by Congress and the third such effort to be passed this month. The money at stake amounts to nearly half of the $4.7 trillion the U.S. government spends annually.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the $3.8 billion allocated to his state was not nearly enough. His state accounts for roughly half of all U.S. cases.
“This doesn’t do it,” he said at a news conference.
The package aims to flood the U.S. economy with cash in a bid to stem the impact of a pandemic that has killed more than 730 people in the United States and infected more than 53,650.
The governors of at least 18 states, including New York, have issued stay-at-home directives affecting about half the U.S. population. The sweeping orders are aimed at slowing the coronavirus‘ spread, but have upended daily life as schools and businesses shutter indefinitely.
Wall Street on Wednesday sustained strong gains from Tuesday’s session on optimism for sweeping fiscal and monetary stimulus to aid businesses and households.
The stimulus bill is expected to pass the Republican-led Senate easily, more so because Republican Senator Rand Paul, the only senator to vote against an earlier round of emergency virus funding, may be unable to vote after testing positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
It also must pass the Democratic-led House of Representatives. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who proposed a more far-reaching rescue package, did not say whether she would support the Senate version.
“We’ll see the bill and see how the Senate votes. So there’s no decision about timing until we see the bill,” she told reporters.
House members left Washington 10 days ago, but the lower chamber could quickly pass the bill without requiring them to return if all members agree to do so.
The No. 2 House Democrat, Steny Hoyer, told lawmakers that they would be notified 24 hours before any action.
If just one of the chamber’s 430 current members objects, that could require them to return to Washington to vote in person at a time when several members are self-quarantining. Any changes made by the House would also require Senate approval — leading to further delays.
The top House Republican, Kevin McCarthy, said he supported the bill and called for its quick passage.
To see what could be included in the coronavirus stimulus package check out the story, What’s in the Stimulus Bill?: Trump Businesses, Congress Members Barred From Aid, here on Money & Markets.
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