In this file:
· Trump, Congress agree on $2 trillion virus rescue bill
· Ag Support in Aid Package
· Congress fiddles over how much pork to pack into stimulus package
· Game Over, Democrats: McConnell was the Grim Reaper to Pelosi’s Wuhan Pork Bill
Trump, Congress agree on $2 trillion virus rescue bill
Andrew Taylor, Lisa Mascaro and Jonathan Lemire, Associated Press
via Yahoo - March 24, 2020
WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House and Senate leaders of both parties announced agreement early Wednesday on unprecedented emergency legislation to rush sweeping aid to businesses, workers and a health care system slammed by the coronavirus pandemic.
The urgently needed pandemic response measure is the largest economic rescue measure in history and is intended as a weeks- or months-long patch for an economy spiraling into recession and a nation facing a potentially ghastly toll.
Top White House aide Eric Ueland announced the agreement in a Capitol hallway shortly after midnight, capping days of often intense haggling and mounting pressure. It still needs to be finalized in detailed legislative language.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are done. We have a deal,” Ueland said.
The unprecedented economic rescue package would give direct payments to most Americans, expand unemployment benefits and provide a $367 billion program for small businesses to keep making payroll while workers are forced to stay home.
One of the last issues to close concerned $500 billion for guaranteed, subsidized loans to larger industries, including a fight over how generous to be with the airlines. Hospitals would get significant help as well.
“After days of intense discussions, the Senate has reached a bipartisan agreement on a historic relief package for this pandemic,” said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a key negotiator. “It will rush new resources onto the front lines of our nation's health care fight. And it will inject trillions of dollars of cash into the economy as fast as possible to help Americans workers, families, small businesses and industries make it through this disruption and emerge on the other side ready to soar."
At the White House on Tuesday, even as the public-health crisis deepened, President Donald Trump expressed eagerness to nudge many people back to work in coming weeks and held out a prospect, based more on hope than science, that the country could be returning to normal in less than a month.
“We have to go back to work, much sooner than people thought,” Trump told a Fox News town hall. He said he'd like to have the country “opened up and just raring to go” by Easter, April 12. But in a White House briefing later, Trump said that "our decision will be based on hard facts and data.”
Medical professionals say social distancing needs to be stepped up, not relaxed, to slow the spread of infections. At the White House briefing, the public-health authorities said it was particularly important for people in the hard-hit New York City metropolitan area to quarantine themselves for 14 days, and for those who have recently left the city to do the same.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert, said pointedly at the briefing, “No one is going to want to tone down anything when you see what is going on in a place like New York City.”
On Capitol Hill, five days of arduous talks produced the bill, creating tensions among Congress' top leaders, who each took care to tend to party politics as they maneuvered and battled over crafting the legislation. But failure was never an option, which permitted both sides to mark big wins.
Even before the deal was reached, news of the likely but elusive agreement had sent the stock market rocketing on Tuesday. The emerging rescue package would be larger than the 2008 bank bailout and 2009 recovery act combined.
The unprecedented economic rescue package would give direct a one-time payment of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child directly to the public.
A huge cash infusion for hospitals expecting a flood of COVID-19 patients grew during the talks at the insistence of Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, while Republicans pressed for tens of billions of dollars for additional relief to be delivered through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal disaster agency.
Democrats said the package would help replace the salary of furloughed workers for four months, rather than the three months first proposed. Furloughed workers would get whatever amount a state usually provides for unemployment, plus a $600 per week add-on, with gig workers like Uber drivers covered for the first time.
“It ensures that all workers are protected whether they work for businesses small, medium or large, along with self-employed and workers in the gig economy,” Schumer said.
Republicans won inclusion of an “employee retention” tax credit that's estimated to provide $50 billion to companies who retain employees on payroll and cover 50% of workers' paychecks. Companies would also be able to defer payment of the 6.2% Social Security payroll tax...
Ag Support in Aid Package
Provisions Would Boost USDA Fund, Set Aside Aid for Livestock Producers
By Chris Clayton, DTN/Progressive Farmer
OMAHA (DTN) -- With a deal reached in Congress, USDA will have more funding to craft an aid package in response to market losses sparked by COVID-19 that would also include help for livestock producers.
The deal struck between Congress and the Trump administration would inject roughly $2 trillion into the U.S. economy.
Among the aid to specific industries includes a $14 billion boost in funding authority for USDA's Commodity Credit Corp. that would allow USDA to provide more direct aid to producers, a spokesperson for an agricultural organization shared with DTN on Wednesday.
The legislation also includes a $9.5 billion assistance program for livestock operations in particular.
More details are expected later Wednesday as specific language on the legislation becomes available.
While ag markets have rebounded this week, both livestock and grain markets have lost significant value for producers since mid-January when the world first began seeing the spread of COVID-19. Agricultural groups had written congressional leaders on Tuesday asking for specific aid. Cattlemen organizations and biofuel organizations also asked Congress for aid for their industries.
Reflecting the late round of discussions, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., announced the deal on the U.S. Senate floor around 12:30 a.m. CDT Wednesday.
"In effect, this is a wartime level of investment into our nation," McConnell said. "The men and women of the greatest country on earth are going to defeat this coronavirus and reclaim our future."
The Senate is now expected to vote on the package later Wednesday. The House would have to be recalled to vote on the package unless House members can agree to vote by unanimous consent.
One of the final areas battled over late Tuesday was funding for USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the single-largest food-aid program in the country. House negotiators had pushed for a boost in SNAP aid, but the Hill reported that language did not make it into the bill.
The bill creates...
Congress fiddles over how much pork to pack into stimulus package
By The Editorial Board | The Orange County Register (CA)
Mar 24, 2020
Over the last week, congressional plans to deliver cash payments to Americans and assistance to businesses morphed into partisan mudslinging and an opportunity for special interests to use this moment to advance their interests.
From a limited-government perspective, there is a reasonable case for providing aid to Americans unable to work and businesses unable to operate because of government orders. But what’s been happening in Washington, D.C. is the sort of dysfunction that has long characterized the federal government.
Instead of an effort limited to restrict assistance to the context of the current pandemic, the total cost of the pending federal stimulus package has bloated up to as much as $2.5 trillion. This is in the context of a federal government that has already established a pattern, in good economic times at that, of spending $1 trillion annually more than it takes in.
The prospect of a multi-trillion dollar bailout bill naturally attracted special interests. Among those jockeying for special treatment have been airlines, casinos and the cruise and hotel industries, which have all lobbied for bailouts. The coal industry has sought a lowering of taxes paid into a fund to assist former miners with black lung disease.
In one case of lobbying highlighted by Reason, the American Public Transportation Association last week requested $12.8 billion in emergency aid for public transit agencies. Days later, that number rose to $16 billion. In response, the Senate Republican-favored plan budgets $20 billion in funding for public transit agencies. Not to be outdone, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s favored plan calls for $25 billion in funding.
Only Congress can turn a $16 billion request into $20-$25 billion.
Alas, the partisan battle over just how generous to be has continued.
On Sunday, Senate Democrats blocked a plan favored by Senate Republicans that in addition to cash payments would offer loans to small businesses in an effort to keep them afloat. A major sticking point was an unprecedented $500-billion loan program to be distributed largely at the discretion of the Treasury Department.
On Monday Pelosi then introduced a plan favored by House Democrats called the “Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act,” which, among other things, would eliminate $11 billion in post office debt and provide a bailout to cover student loan costs.
Also on Monday, following the rejection of yet another vote in the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell argued Democrats were impeding progress because they wanted to include provisions including tax credits for wind and solar polar and “special treatment to big labor.” Democrats have in turn countered that Republicans tacked on a provision to extend an expiring abstinence-education program...
Game Over, Democrats: McConnell was the Grim Reaper to Pelosi’s Wuhan Pork Bill
Matt Vespa, Townhall
Mar 25, 2020 2:10 AM
It’s over. The game is over. And President Trump, the Republican Party, the country, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has won. Democrats have caved over their antics that blocked a Wuhan Coronavirus relief package aimed at helping American businesses and workers. The $2 trillion package was primed and ready to go on Sunday, with the Senate working throughout the week to get it done. Then, Speaker Nancy Pelosi flew back into D.C.—because the House took the week off—and announced that they will be putting forward their own package, effectively signaling that political theater over this would erupt. It’s what the Democrats wanted. They can’t let anything be viewed as a win for the Trump White House. It’s an election year. And they wanted to tank the markets even further. Well, they got that on Monday.
It was shoddy from the get-go. Like their shutdown over illegal aliens in the early days of the Trump presidency, the Democrats didn’t have much to stand on here: they were flipping off American workers. Oh, and they co-wrote the Senate bill. Yeah, that was one thing that was explicitly clear, which made this move even more nakedly political. And the Pelosi pork proposal was fraught with nonsense, like $35 million for the Kennedy Center, $600 million for the IRS, diversity on corporate boards, and voting rights provisions—all of which does nothing to help American workers during this economic shutdown over the Wuhan virus. Well, they call McConnell the grim reaper for nothing. We have a deal, and it’s pretty much what was going to be voted on from the start of this mini fiasco (via Fox News):
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