WASHINGTON – After five days of negotiations, Senate leaders and the White House agreed on a roughly $2 trillion stimulus deal early Wednesday aimed at rescuing an economy ravaged by the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus by aiding businesses, workers and hospitals.
“At last, we have a deal,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced on Twitter and vowed the Senate would pass the legislation later Wednesday.
Senate Republicans first unveiled the package last week, but the proposal has grown and changed during negotiations between Senate Republicans, the White House and congressional Democrats.
The full details of the stimulus deal have yet to be released but at its center is a program giving $1,200 checks to most U.S. adults and $500 to children, as well as a $367 billion program to help small businesses maintain payroll during the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
One of the final issues to be decided was $500 billion in loans for larger industries, such as commercial airlines.
As of Tuesday evening, the latest stimulus deal plan reportedly did away with the minimum income threshold for people to qualify for the direct payments, but still gradually phases out starting with people making $75,000 or $150,000 for married couples.
The small business loans would become grants if businesses use the money to maintain payroll and otherwise maintain operations during a time when most businesses are struggling to bring in money due to state mandated shutdowns and closures.
The sweeping stimulus deal also expands unemployment insurance benefits, boosts funding to hospitals and provides more money for vaccine development.
Senate Republicans worked out the initial proposal within the caucus and began talks with Democrats on specific provisions over the weekend.
Senate Democrats then blocked two procedural votes on Sunday and Monday as they objected to certain provisions in the bill. Chief among their complaints was a lack of oversight to keep account of where the money in the $500 billion loan package goes.
In an interview on CNBC on Tuesday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said the Senate had agreed to increased oversight for the loan package.
Democrats also sought more conditions on companies receiving loans under the legislation and more funding for hospitals amid the crisis.
Republicans have criticized Democrats as holding up critical legislation in order to press for long-desired policy goals. Those calls grew louder after House Democrats unveiled a larger plan that included a mandate that airlines slash carbon emissions in half by 2050 as a condition of receiving money and placed board diversity requirements on large companies receiving money from the stimulus proposal.