Senators edge closer to bipartisan agreement on economic rescue plan
WASHINGTON — Senators plan to work through the weekend hashing out a bipartisan deal on a sweeping $1 trillion economic stabilization package that could be enacted within days to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
Democratic and Republican negotiators, who huddled with top administration officials throughout the day and into the evening Friday, said they had made significant progress on a number of issues. After nearly 12 hours, they fell short of the ambitious goal set by Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the majority leader, who had pushed to strike a deal in principle by midnight Friday.
McConnell has begun clearing procedural hurdles on the Senate floor in order to vote on the Senate package Monday, leaving senators and President Donald Trump’s top economic advisers until Saturday afternoon to draft legislative text, said Eric Ueland, the White House director of legislative affairs.
Senators will reconvene Saturday morning, negotiators said. Ueland said that there was “a lot of near consensus” on how to provide aid to industries seeking relief from the effects of the pandemic, how to assist small businesses, how to bolster health care facilities and how to send direct aid to the American people.
“There are just a number of balls still in the air,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., as he left Friday evening.
Democratic and Republican negotiators seemed close to an agreement on providing expanded unemployment benefits for workers affected by the coronavirus — one of the major sticking points in the legislation — including those who are self-employed and people whose hours have been reduced as large parts of the economy shut down to slow the spread.
Democrats were prepared to drop their opposition to several large corporate tax cuts as part of the compromise. And Republicans were ready to agree to a direct payment that would apply equally to workers with incomes up to $75,000 per year before phasing out and ending altogether for those earning more than $99,000. The two sides were also working to reach an agreement on a proposal to allocate stabilization funds for states.
While there is widespread agreement on the need for a package, Republicans and Democrats began negotiations Friday divided over the details. Negotiators were debating which Americans should receive direct payments from the government and how they should receive them, how much paid leave employers should have to cover for workers and what form of assistance to provide to small and large businesses.