$2 Trillion Relief Deal Reached
A much-needed aid package to deal with the ravages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic on our nation’s economy has finally been reached, although it may be days before it’s actually enacted into legislation and the money released.
WaPo (“Senate, White House reach $2 trillion stimulus deal to blunt coronavirus fallout“):
Senate leaders and the Trump administration reached agreement early Wednesday on a $2 trillion stimulus package to rescue the economy from the coronavirus assault, setting the stage for swift passage of the massive legislation through both chambers of Congress.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced the breakthrough on the Senate floor around 1:30 a.m., after a long day of talks with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and other administration officials.
Recall that the previous bill, written by Senate Republicans, faltered over the inclusion of a $500 billion “slush fund” controlled by the Treasury Secretary to spend as he saw fit under the cloak of secrecy. It appears to remain, albeit in modified form:
As lawmakers neared a deal, the White House made a significant concession to Democrats’ demands, agreeing to allow enhanced scrutiny over the massive loan program that is a centerpiece of the Senate’s $2 trillion coronavirus economic package.
This pertains to the $500 billion loan and loan guarantee program that the Treasury Department would be tasked with administering for companies, states and cities. Of that amount, $425 billion is supposed to go to businesses, cities and states. An additional $50 billion would go to passenger airlines, as well as $8 billion for cargo airlines, and $17 billion for firms that are deemed important to national security.
Trump has already said he wants some of the money to go to the cruise ship industry, and he also wants assistance for hotels. When he was asked Monday evening who would perform oversight of the program, Trump responded, “I’ll be the oversight.”
But during closed-door negotiations on Capitol Hill, White House officials agreed to allow an independent inspector general and an oversight board to scrutinize the lending decisions, senators said.
The most recent precedent for this is the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program that was created during the 2008 financial crisis. To oversee TARP, Congress created an independent inspector general, a regulatory oversight board and a congressional oversight panel. Over the course of several years, investigations uncovered numerous cases of fraud at large and small companies as firms sought to obtain taxpayer money through various programs.
The overall plan is staggering:
The legislation, unprecedented in its size and scope, aims to flood the economy with capital by sending $1,200 checks to many Americans, creating a $367 billion loan program for small businesses and setting up a $500 billion fund for industries, cities and states.
Other provisions include a massive boost to unemployment insurance, $150 billion for state and local stimulus funds and $130 billion for hospitals.
McConnell said the Senate would pass the legislation later Wednesday. With the House out of session, action there could take longer, depending on whether lawmakers can agree to pass the bill by “unanimous consent,” which would require agreement from all members of the chamber.
Tuesday began with all parties predicting a deal would be imminent, along with a vote by Tuesday evening. But as the hours dragged on multiple disputes arose and legislative language required close review.
Finally, as midnight neared Tuesday, the pace of shuttle diplomacy picked up on the second floor of the Capitol, as Mnuchin, White House legislative affairs director Eric Ueland and newly named White House chief of staff, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), met alternately with McConnell and Schumer, who was in frequent contact with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Let’s leave aside that it’s unconstitutional for a Member of Congress to have a job in the executive branch. Maybe “newly named” is a literal description.
The $2 trillion is literally more than the stimulus after the Great Recession of 2008. And it may well be a drop in the bucket.
The package would extend extraordinary taxpayer assistance to potentially millions of American and companies that have been hammered by the fast-moving economic crisis. The bill is being rushed through Congress without public hearings or formal review, and it’s unclear how effective the measures would be in arresting the economy’s sudden fall.
The stock market rose sharply Tuesday in anticipation of the deal, with the Dow Jones industrial average surging more than 2,100 points, or 11.4 percent. The government is dealing with a number of competing pressures, though, as Trump declared that he’d like much of the country to be up and running by April 12, even though the number of people testing positive for the novel virus in the United States continues to climb.
The Senate bill would direct payments of $1,200 to most American adults and $500 to most children, create a $500 billion lending program for companies, states and cities, and extend an additional $367 billion to help small companies deal with payroll problems. It would bolster the unemployment insurance system and pump $150 billion into U.S. hospitals. The bill more than doubled in size in just a few days.
So has the number of Americans infected with—and dead from—the disease.