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WASHINGTON – The Senate on Wednesday approved a historic, $2 trillion stimulus package to provide a jolt to an economy reeling from the coronavirus pandemic, capping days of intense negotiations that produced one of the most expensive and far-reaching measures Congress has ever considered.
In a remarkable sign of overwhelming bipartisan support for the legislation, the vote was unanimous at 96-0.
The legislation represents the largest emergency aid package in US history and the most significant legislative action taken to address the rapidly intensifying coronavirus crisis, which is overwhelming hospitals and grinding much of the economy to a halt.
It will next go to the House for a vote. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced Wednesday evening ahead of Senate passage that the House will convene at 9 a.m. on Friday to consider the relief package. The plan is to pass the bill by voice vote, a move that would allow the House to avoid forcing all members to return to Washington for a recorded roll call vote.
President Donald Trump has indicated he will sign the measure and tweeted his congratulations after it cleared the Senate.
The White House and Senate leaders struck a major deal early Wednesday morning on the package. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell formally announced the agreement on the Senate floor, describing it as “a wartime level of investment for our nation.”
Legislative text of the final deal was released Wednesday evening ahead of a final vote. Key elements of the proposal are $250 billion set aside for direct payments to individuals and families, $350 billion in small business loans, $250 billion in unemployment insurance benefits and $500 billion in loans for distressed companies.
The plan will deliver a massive infusion of financial aid into a struggling economy hard hit by job loss, with provisions to help impacted American workers and families as well as small businesses and major industries including airlines.
Under the plan, individuals who earn $75,000 in adjusted gross income or less would get direct payments of $1,200 each, with married couples earning up to $150,000 receiving $2,400 — and an additional $500 per each child. The payment would scale down by income, phasing out entirely at $99,000 for singles and $198,000 for couples without children.
In addition, the bill would provide a major amount of funding for hard-hit hospitals — $130 billion — as well as $150 billion for state and local governments that are cash-strapped due to their response to coronavirus.
It also has a provision that would block Trump and his family, as well as other top government officials and members of Congress, from getting loans or investments from Treasury programs in the stimulus, according to Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office.
A few senators were missing from the vote due to concerns about their health amid the coronavirus outbreak, including GOP Sen. Whip John Thune who missed the vote because he was not feeling well, his communications director said in a series of tweets. The tweets do not mention coronavirus or self-quarantine, but said he returned home to South Dakota “out of an abundance of caution.”
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