Trump signs $2.2T stimulus after swift congressional votes

President Donald Trump signed an unprecedented $2.2 trillion economic rescue package into law Friday, after swift and near-unanimous action by Congress this week to support businesses, rush resources to overburdened health care providers and help struggling families during the deepening coronavirus epidemic.

Posted: Mar 27, 2020 4:44 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump signed an unprecedented $2.2 trillion economic rescue package into law Friday, after swift and near-unanimous action by Congress this week to support businesses, rush resources to overburdened health care providers and help struggling families during the deepening coronavirus epidemic.

Acting with unity and resolve unseen since the 9/11 attacks, Washington moved urgently to stem an economic free fall caused by widespread restrictions meant to slow the spread of the virus that have shuttered schools, closed businesses and brought American life in many places to a virtual standstill.

“This will deliver urgently needed relief,” Trump said as he signed the bill in the Oval Office, flanked only by Republican lawmakers. He thanked members of both parties for putting Americans “first.”

Earlier Friday, the House of Representatives gave near-unanimous approval by voice vote after an impassioned session conducted along the social distancing guidelines imposed by the crisis. Many lawmakers sped to Washington to participate — their numbers swollen after a maverick Republican signaled he’d try to force a roll call vote — though dozens of others remained safely in their home districts.

The Senate passed the bill unanimously late Wednesday.

“The American people deserve a government-wide, visionary, evidence-based response to address these threats to their lives and their livelihood and they need it now,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

The $2.2 trillion legislation will speed government payments of $1,200 to most Americans and increase jobless benefits for millions of people thrown out of work. Businesses big and small will get loans, grants and tax breaks. It will send unprecedented billions to states and local governments, and the nation’s all but overwhelmed health care system.

“This pathogen does not recognize party lines, and no partisan solution will defeat it. Neither will the government acting alone,” said GOP Whip Liz Cheney of Wyoming. “This is not a time for cynicism or invective or second-guessing. This is a time to remember that we are citizens of the greatest nation on Earth, that we have overcome every challenge we have faced, and we will overcome this one.”

Despite reservations, arch conservatives joined with progressives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., to back the bill, which moved quickly through a Congress that’s been battered by partisanship and is itself not immune to the suffering the virus has caused. Rep. Joe Cunningham, D-S.C., announced Friday that he has tested positive, just the latest infection in Congress.

Tea party Republicans said government orders to shutter businesses merited actions that conflict with small-government ideology. Liberals accepted generous corporate rescues that accompany larger unemployment benefits, deferrals of student loans, and an enormous surge of funding for health care and other agencies responding to the crisis.

“I’m going to have to vote for something that has things in it that break my heart,” said conservative Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz.

Many lawmakers summoned the bipartisan spirit of 9/11 and efforts to fight terrorism. Others praised the roles low-income workers play in keeping the country going and the heroism of health care workers. Some, like Iowa Democrat Abby Finkenauer, who had just learned of two additional coronavirus-related deaths in her district, came close to tears.

Others couldn’t restrain their partisan impulses. Republicans chided Democratic leaders for delays and provisions they see as extraneous, such as funding for public broadcasting and the arts; Democrats said too many elements are a bailout for corporations that may not need it.

Still, in a chamber increasingly dominated by lawmakers whose chief skill often seems to be partisan attacks, Friday’s debate was a noteworthy break.

“We have no time to dither,” said Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va. “We have no time to engage in ideological or petty partisan fights. Our country needs us as one.”

The run-up to the vote contained an element of drama because libertarian conservative Thomas Massie, R-Ky., announced plans to seek a vote. The leaders of both parties united to prevent that because it would have forced lawmakers back to the Capitol or blemished their voting records if they stayed home. Instead, they made sure enough lawmakers would attend Friday’s session to block Massie’s move under the rules, and lawmakers took the unprecedented step of sitting in the visitors galleries to establish the necessary quorum.

The House promptly adjourned for a weeks-long recess but will return later in the spring to consider further legislation.

“This bill is not only a rescue package, it’s a commitment — a commitment that your government, and the people whom you elected to serve you, will do everything we can to limit the harm and hardship you face, both now and in the foreseeable future,” said Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

The legislation will give $1,200 direct payments to individuals and make way for a flood of subsidized loans, grants and tax breaks to businesses facing extinction in an economic shutdown caused as Americans self-isolate by the tens of millions. It dwarfs prior Washington responses to crises like 9/11, the 2008 financial crisis, and natural disasters.

The massive CARES Act started as a draft plan among Republicans controlling the Senate who were seeking a greater voice in the coronavirus response efforts -- especially after Pelosi was a dominant force in earlier legislation imposing a sick leave mandate on businesses.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., welcomed Democratic participation a week ago, and signed off on a major expansion of unemployment insurance, but his efforts to freeze out Pelosi and force a quick agreement were met with Democratic demands for large infusions of aid to states and hospitals, as well as an assortment of smaller items. McConnell and top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York wrestled for days, along with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and other administration officials.

Negotiations finally produced a deal early Wednesday morning, and the Senate passed the measure by a 96-0 vote.

Key elements are untested, such as grants to small businesses to keep workers on payroll and complex lending programs to larger businesses. Rebate payments will go to people who have retained their jobs. Agencies like the Small Business Administration and state unemployment systems will be severely taxed, and conservatives fear that a new, generous unemployment benefit will dissuade jobless people from returning to the workforce.

The bill amounts to a bridge loan for much of the economy and carries a price tag that equals half the size of the entire $4 trillion-plus annual federal budget.

The legislation also establishes a $454 billion program for guaranteed, subsidized loans to larger industries in hopes of leveraging up to $4.5 trillion in lending to distressed businesses, states, and municipalities.

There is also $150 billion devoted to the health care system, including $100 billion for grants to hospitals and other health care providers buckling under the strain of COVID-19 caseloads.

It also seeks to strengthen the safety net for the poor and homeless. Schools and students would get relief, small business loans payments would be deferred. Evictions from public housing would be put on pause.

Republicans successfully pressed for an employee retention tax credit designed to help companies keep workers on payroll. Companies would also be able to defer payment of the 6.2% Social Security payroll tax. A huge tax break for interest costs and operating losses limited by the 2017 tax overhaul was restored at a $200 billion cost in a boon for the real estate sector.

Most people who contract the new coronavirus have mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

AP writer Zeke Miller contributed.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

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Confirmed Cases: 31715

Reported Deaths: 1984
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion9189533
Lake3299167
Cass15826
Allen127766
St. Joseph117034
Hendricks112367
Hamilton109992
Johnson1082104
Elkhart100827
Madison58258
Porter48721
Bartholomew48033
Clark45838
LaPorte40821
Tippecanoe3733
Jackson3611
Howard35618
Delaware35434
Hancock31927
Shelby31421
Floyd31338
Boone28235
Morgan26124
Vanderburgh2482
Montgomery22717
White2268
Decatur22431
Clinton2151
Noble18520
Grant18520
Harrison18521
Dubois1822
Greene16723
Warrick16426
Dearborn16221
Monroe16010
Henry1597
Vigo1477
Lawrence14322
Miami1391
Putnam1337
Jennings1274
Orange12422
Scott1183
Ripley1126
Franklin1068
Carroll922
Kosciusko861
Daviess8216
Steuben792
Newton7410
Wabash722
Wayne695
Fayette654
Marshall641
LaGrange602
Jasper561
Washington521
Fulton471
Rush452
Jay430
Jefferson411
Randolph403
Pulaski390
Clay391
Whitley392
Brown331
Sullivan321
Starke313
Owen311
DeKalb291
Perry270
Huntington262
Benton250
Knox240
Crawford230
Wells230
Tipton221
Blackford201
Switzerland190
Fountain182
Parke170
Posey170
Spencer161
Gibson142
Ohio130
Adams121
Warren121
Vermillion90
Martin90
Union80
Pike60
Unassigned0152

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 112017

Reported Deaths: 4885
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook730973324
Lake7723250
DuPage7207340
Kane5761152
Will5188258
Winnebago195351
McHenry142767
St. Clair99172
Kankakee79942
Kendall71419
Rock Island63622
Champaign5647
Madison53954
Boone39716
Sangamon33126
DeKalb3253
Randolph2593
Jackson22810
McLean21110
Ogle1922
Stephenson1902
Macon18819
Peoria1797
Clinton17716
Out of IL1641
Union1417
LaSalle14012
Whiteside13410
Iroquois1304
Coles1169
Warren1140
Unassigned1100
Jefferson10116
Knox940
Monroe9211
Grundy892
McDonough835
Lee771
Cass670
Henry670
Tazewell673
Williamson551
Marion500
Jasper457
Adams441
Macoupin411
Perry410
Pulaski400
Montgomery391
Vermilion391
Morgan341
Christian334
Livingston312
Douglas270
Jo Daviess270
Fayette202
Ford201
Jersey201
Washington180
Mason170
Menard170
Woodford172
Shelby161
Bureau151
Mercer150
Carroll132
Hancock130
Franklin120
Crawford110
Fulton110
Piatt110
Bond101
Brown100
Clark100
Cumberland100
Logan100
Moultrie100
Schuyler100
Wayne91
Alexander80
Henderson80
Johnson70
Massac70
Saline70
Effingham61
Greene50
Marshall50
De Witt40
Lawrence40
Richland30
Stark30
Clay20
Edwards20
Gallatin20
Hamilton20
Wabash20
White20
Calhoun10
Hardin10
Pike10
Pope10
Putnam10
Edgar00
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