White House and Senate leaders reached a deal on the biggest bailout in history on Wednesday, a $2tn rescue package for the US economy ravaged by the coronavirus.After days of round-the-clock and at times extraordinarily tense negotiations among senators and administration officials, a compromise was struck just after midnight to rush financial assistance to workers, businesses and the healthcare system as the pandemic sweeps the country, deepening economic fallout as Donald Trump considers easing restrictions aimed at combating the contagion.
“We have a deal,” said Eric Ueland, the White House legislative affairs director, just before 1am, adding that the text of the bill needed to be completed. “We 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.
”The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, saluted “a bipartisan agreement on a historic relief package for this pandemic”, a deal he described as a “wartime level of investment into our nation”.The minority leader, Chuck Schumer, said: “This is not a moment of celebration, but one of necessity. To all Americans I say: help is on the way.
”The Senate reconvened on Wednesday but a drive to push through the package quickly was upended by the objections of a group of conservative lawmakers. Three Republicans – Lindsey Graham, Tim Scott and Ben Sasse – raised concerns over what they claimed was a “massive drafting error” that would create a “strong incentive for employees to be laid off instead of going to work”.
The Vermont independent (and candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination) Bernie Sanders countered that he would “put a hold on” the bill, in order to push for stronger conditions on bailed-out businesses, unless the Republicans dropped their objections.House speaker Nancy Pelosi said the Senate bill went “a long way down the road in meeting the needs of the American people”, but did not give a clear sign of approval.
The legislation is an order of magnitude larger than the $800bn stimulus bill passed in 2009 to alleviate the economic pain of the Great Recession. And yet it is only expected to be a temporary patch to stabilize an economy spiraling out of control. Senators have already signaled a need to begin work on the next stimulus package.
The treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, who has led negotiations with Democrats, said Trump would “absolutely” sign the bill if Congress approved it.The legislation would also prohibit businesses owned by Trump, his family and members of Congress from receiving loans or investments from the treasury department program.
“Those of us who write the law shouldn’t benefit from the law,” Schumer told CNN on Wednesday.US stock markets, which rose more than 2,100 points, or more than 11%, on Tuesday, continued to rise, albeit at a slower pace, on Wednesday.But many on Wall Street appear uncertain that the stimulus package, together with a Federal Reserve.