Washington — The Senate approved a relief package worth roughly $484 billion to mitigate the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, ending weeks of stalemate between Democrats and Republicans in the Senate.
The bill, which passed by unanimous consent, provides an additional $310 billion to the Paycheck Protection Program, the fund that provides loans to small businesses and ran out of money last week. The package also includes $60 billion in disaster relief loans and grants, $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion to boost coronavirus testing.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced the deal on Tuesday. McConnell asked that the measure be approved by unanimous consent, and it passed without formal objection, although Republican Senators Rand Paul and Mike Lee voiced their opposition before the request.
"I am pleased to report that we have reached an agreement with the administration on interim emergency relief legislation," Schumer announced in a letter to Democratic colleagues Tuesday afternoon. Schumer called the deal a "result of bipartisan negotiations with Secretary Mnuchin, the Trump administration, and Speaker Pelosi."
McConnell faulted Democrats for holding up the legislation by blocking an earlier attempt to expand the PPP after it ran out of money last week, but said he supports the deal reached Tuesday.
"I welcome this bipartisan agreement and hope the Senate will quickly pass it once members have reviewed the final text," McConnell said in a statement. "I am just sorry that it took my colleagues in Democratic leadership 12 days to accept the inevitable."
Schumer said in an interview with CNN on Tuesday morning that he and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi negotiated with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a phone call that stretched "well past midnight."
Democrats blocked an additional $250 billion in PPP funding two weeks ago, arguing that it did not do enough to assist hospitals and state and local governments. Schumer said that decision allowed them to secure more funding for hospitals and expanded testing.
"Leader McConnell initially tried to bypass negotiations altogether and jam through a bill that would have increased funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) alone, while ignoring the many changes Democrats have called for to improve its service to small businesses," Schumer said Tuesday.
President Trump had urged lawmakers to approve the legislation in two tweets on Tuesday afternoon.
"I urge the Senate and House to pass the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act with additional funding for PPP, Hospitals, and Testing. After I sign this Bill, we will begin discussions on the next Legislative Initiative with fiscal relief...to State/Local Governments for lost revenues from COVID 19, much needed Infrastructure Investments for Bridges, Tunnels, Broadband, Tax Incentives for Restaurants, Entertainment, Sports, and Payroll Tax Cuts to increase Economic Growth," Mr. Trump wrote.
In his letter to colleagues, Schumer highlighted the inclusion of funding for a national coronavirus testing program, a key demand from Democrats.
The bill directs $60 billion in PPP funding to be dedicated to small lenders and community-based financial institutions "to serve the needs of unbanked and underserved small businesses and nonprofits" such as rural and minority-owned businesses.
Democrats declared victory with the deal, which is much larger than the initial $250 billion package proposed by Republicans two weeks ago.
"None of these provisions would have been possible if not for the insistence of Senate Democrats," Schumer said in his letter.
Governors and Democratic lawmakers have argued that the three previous coronavirus relief packages have not done enough to help states and localities. The interim bill does not specifically include assistance for states to make up for lost revenues, but Schumer said the White House had committed to giving states more flexibility to use funds that have already been approved.
The Democratic leader said he hoped to address assistance for states in the fourth major legislative package to respond to the economic fallout of the coronavirus.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Monday that hospitals, schools and local governments will face 20% cuts in state aid if the federal government fails to include more funding in the next coronavirus package. Cuomo is expected to meet with President Trump at the White House today.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer sent a memo to colleagues informing them that the House could meet to take up the legislation on Thursday if the Senate passes it on Tuesday. Hoyer said he expected Republicans to block the option of approving the measure by a voice vote, meaning that a quorum of members would need to be present to pass the legislation by a recorded vote.
The House is also expected to consider a rule change which would allow remote voting by proxy, meaning that a member could cast a vote on behalf of their colleague.