Speed Reads

coronavirus and the economy

Congress, White House reach agreement on $2 trillion coronavirus economic rescue bill

"Ladies and gentlemen, we are done," White House legislative affairs director Eric Ueland said early Wednesday, after five days of intense talks with congressional leaders about a coronavirus economic rescue bill. "We have a deal." The $2 trillion deal includes money for most Americans, $367 billion for small businesses who continue to pay employees forced to stay home, $130 billion for hospitals, and a $500 billion loan program for corporations, states, and local governments. If passed, this will be the third bill Congress has passed to stem the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. It will also be the largest economic rescue bill ever passed by Congress.

The deal was negotiated by Ueland, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who was in frequent contact with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). At the insistence of Democrats, the legislation includes an independent inspector general and an oversight board for the $500 billion loan program, as well as other protections.

Democrats also secured a provision to expand unemployment insurance with broader eligibility, including for gig-economy workers, and an extra $600 a week for four months. As with McConnell's draft, U.S. adults will get $1,200 with an extra $500 for each child. The Senate is expected to pass the legislation swiftly, but the House is on recess and that timeline is less clear.

Pelosi, who will shelve the House's more generous package in favor of the Senate bill, is hoping to pass the legislation by unanimous consent, sparing members a trip back to Washington. But any House member can derail that plan, and the likely alternative is a floor vote held open for several days so lawmakers wary of contracting COVID-19 can vote in socially distanced shifts.