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White House, Senate leaders agree on coronavirus stimulus package

“It’s good news for families all across America,” McConnell says

White House and Senate negotiators announced an agreement early Wednesday morning on a massive financial rescue package designed to curb the economic damage of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“At last, we have a deal,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on the floor a little after 1:30 a.m. “We’re going to pass this legislation later today.” He said the chamber would convene at noon and take up the underlying vehicle shortly thereafter.

[In coronavirus aid debate, GOP sees a favorite target: Green New Deal]

“After five days of arduous negotiations … we have a bipartisan agreement on the largest rescue package in American history,” added Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y.

While some of the legislative language had yet to be drafted, officials said they expected to circulate a bill Wednesday that would provide cash payments to families, loans to businesses big and small, an expanded social safety net for the jobless and a major cash infusion for the nation’s hospitals. The price tag was expected to hit $2 trillion or more.

“To all Americans I say, help is on the way,” Schumer said.

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Schumer said the package would contain over $130 billion for hospitals, doctors, nurses and community health centers; $150 billion for state and local governments; dramatically expanded unemployment compensation; and strict oversight of hundreds of billions of dollars for business loans.

After Schumer spoke, he and Senate Banking Chairman Michael D. Crapo, R-Idaho, who worked on the lending provisions, celebrated in true coronavirus-era fashion: they bumped elbows.

“Much of the work on bill text has been completed. And I’m hopeful that over the next few hours we’ll finish what’s left and be able to circulate it early in the morning,” White House legislative liaison Eric Ueland told reporters.

Ueland said negotiators have “either, clear, explicit legislative text reflecting all parties or we know exactly where we’re going to land on legislative text as we continue to finish.”

Schumer sent a letter to Democratic senators after he spoke, touting additional wins in the package, such as $30 billion for education funding and $25 billion for public transit agencies; $17 billion more for small businesses, including grants to cover immediate payroll costs; banning stock buybacks for companies receiving loans for the duration of the loan plus another year; a worker retention payroll tax credit and more.

The measure also prohibits aid from going to businesses controlled by President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, or any Cabinet officials or members of Congress or their children, spouses and in-laws.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he’d spoken with Trump “many times today and he’s very pleased with this legislation and the impact it’s going to have.”

There was no immediate word from aides to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. With the House in pro forma session and many lawmakers unlikely to travel back to Washington, Pelosi will likely need to clear the package by voice vote or unanimous consent.

“I can’t speak for the speaker; I hope she takes it up and she passes it as is,” Mnuchin said.

Senate leaders have been eager for days to pass a relief package to address the fallout of shuttered businesses and jobless workers as the coronavirus sickens thousands and put the country in a virtual lockdown.

But talks had stalled for days over myriad sticking points that included the amount of cash payments, the structure of airline aid, the amount of food assistance needed and the oversight of a $500 billion fund that offers loans to struggling industries.

The gravity of the moment, and perhaps a tinge of exhaustion, was clear in the floor speeches of both Senate leaders early Wednesday morning.

“In effect, this is a wartime level of investment into our nation. The men and women of the greatest country on Earth are going to defeat this coronavirus and reclaim our future,” McConnell said. “The Senate’s going to make sure that they have the ammunition they need to do it.”

Griffin Connolly, Paul M. Krawzak and Doug Sword contributed to this report.

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