After days of partisan bickering, Senate leaders and White House officials finally agreed to terms for a historic $2 trillion coronavirus relief package for businesses and workers impacted by the outbreak.
Democratic leaders nearly torpedoed the deal by adding in last-minute demands but, in the early hours of Wednesday morning, reason finally prevailed.
White House Legislative Affairs Director Eric Ueland walked out of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) office just after midnight on Wednesday, and he said the four words everyone has been waiting for, “We have a deal.” Ueland spoke to reporters soon after revealing that a deal was in place. “Much of the work on bill text has been completed and I’m hopeful over the next few hours we’ll finish what’s left,” he said, “We will circulate it early in the morning.”
After the agreement was finalized Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wrote a letter to his Democratic colleagues urging swift passage of the bill. “Democrats are ready to give our unanimous consent to speed up the consideration of the bill and get the job done,“ he wrote. As long as there is no dissension in the Senate ranks, the Senate could pass the bill outright without taking a vote. A no-roll call vote is the fastest way possible to move bills through the senate.
— Chuck Woolery (@chuckwoolery) March 25, 2020
The bill includes provisions for direct payments to most Americans, including expanded unemployment benefits and $367 billion allocated to payroll support for small businesses. Schumer called in “unemployment compensation on steroids,” and promised that American’s who have been laid off will get their missed salary back.
One of the most hotly contested issues in the legislation is a $500 billion subsidy for guaranteed loans to large industries, including airlines. Democrats are trying to use the crisis as leverage to coerce U.S. air carriers into agreeing to strict carbon emissions standards. However, it’s unclear at this point whether the push will result in any changes.
The zero-hour agreement marked a dramatic about-face for Senate Democrats, who just days ago had criticized the deal extensively for not providing enough support for American workers. According to a senior GOP source’s statement to Fox News, Schumer was just doing his best to save face.
The unnamed source told Fox that Schumer’s filibuster was a push for “small ball” changes to the deal and now the senator is trying to “take credit” for a GOP bill. Schumer only had a change of heart when Democrats realized they couldn’t delay the vote any longer without risking serious damage to the economy.
Meanwhile, President Trump’s approval ratings skyrocketed over the past week. A Gallup poll revealed that 60% of Americans approved of Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak. His overall job approval rating rose to 49% – his best rating since taking office.
Support amongst independents also increased from 35% to 43%, and even his approval figures amongst Democrats increased by 6 points. The survey showed that Trump’s approval ratings spiked around the time that the impeachment trial was making its way through the legislature.
Poll data indicate that the average American is siding with the President’s approach to the crisis. It seems that Democrats didn’t do themselves any favor with their impeachment fiasco, and their feet-dragging response to the COVID-19 bailout hasn’t scored them any points with voters either.
According to reports, Democrats are still pushing for additions to the $2 trillion deal, but they’ll have to tread carefully if they’re thinking about delaying the legislation anymore. It seems like many Americans are losing their patience, so any more political stunts could hurt them in the polls. The procedural vote to begin debate on the legislation is currently scheduled for 1 PM EST on Wednesday.