Behold, We Have A Stimulus Bill!
After a couple extra days of negotiations, Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have agreed on a $2 trillion stimulus bill aimed at offsetting some of the worst economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced the deal in the wee hours this morning, around 1:30 a.m., and the Senate is expected to pass the bill later today after McConnell has had a nap and a nice lunch of iceberg lettuce sprinkled with human misery.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was included in the negotiations and said the bill had the approval of Donald Trump, almost as if Trump had been briefed on and/or understood the details. Mnuchin said he had "spoken to the president many times today; he's very pleased with this legislation and the impact that this is going to have."
Trump, for his part, spent the morning grudge-tweeting, with tweets attacking Joe Biden and sarcastically expressing happiness that Mitt Romney did not test positive for the virus, while saying Romney was "a terrible presidential candidate and an even worse U.S. Senator, but he is a RINO, and I like him a lot!" Trump also retweeted the usual bunch of rightwing idiots who praised him or mocked his enemies, so he's probably finished thinking about this dumb pandemic. Trump didn't tweet his own statement on the deal, but did retweet this fascinating gif depicting McConnell as some sort of wizard or superhero with electric eyes.
He is a very serious president, our Dear Leader.
The basic shape of the stimulus bill is similar to Monday's draft version, but Democrats were able to get some important concessions on beefed-up unemployment insurance and a $500 billion fund that would go to help corporations and states. Here's a quick rundown of the basics:
Direct Payments to Americans: $1200 to each adult, plus $500 per child. The original proposal to reduce payments for poorer taxpayers was eliminated, and the checks will phase out for higher-income folks, based on 2018 income taxes. Individuals making over $75,000 (joint filers over $150K) would get progressively less, with no checks at all for those making $99K or more (joint returns over $198K).
Emergency Unemployment Insurance: Schumer called the bill's unemployment benefits "unemployment insurance on steroids," because it would pay out an additional $600 per week over whatever people get in state unemployment benefits. In a good 'splainer of the bill's unemployment provisions, Vox points out that really is a significant amount, since "as of January the average UI check was $385 per week" — so that'll make a huge difference, especially for low-wage workers in states with crap benefits. Also, Democrats won an increase in how long the emergency benefits will run: four months, a month more than the original Republican bill. The emergency unemployment provision will cover a lot of workers who don't qualify for benefits in most state systems, like gig workers, self-employed people, and people who work for government agencies or nonprofits. Unfortunately, the aid only lasts the four months, and regardless of Trump's bullshit about "opening up" the country by Easter, the downturn is likely to last longer.
More Solid Ground for the "Slush Fund": Democrats had balked at the original proposal's provision to have the Treasury Department throw $500 billion at recipients it alone would choose. Of that, $75 billion would go to hospitals (beyond a separate appropriation elsewhere in the bill), and Dems weren't keen on letting the Trump administration pick and choose where the other $425 billion would go. While the Dems weren't able to get Elizabeth Warren's list of requirements to prevent abuse of the bailout funds, the final agreement at least includes some oversight: a special inspector general for the fund, and a five-member congressional oversight panel. The Washington Post points out that would be similar to the oversight mechanism used for the Troubled Asset Relief Program following the 2008 market crash. We can re-use all our IT'S A TARP! image files.
Small Business Relief: $367 billion in low-interest loans, up $17 billion from the original proposal. (Is this the time for small businesses to take on debt? Should that money have been grants instead? Uh fucking duh.)
We'll let the LA Times summarize the other big stuff:
[The] deal also includes around $130 billion for hospitals dealing with a shortage in medical masks, ventilators and hospital beds ahead of an expected wave of cases — a $25-billion increase from what was initially proposed. And it provides $150 billion directly to state and local governments dealing with the outbreak.
The Senate should pass the bill today, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would try to pass it tomorrow, although that could run into a snag. Pelosi said the Senate bill had "moved sufficiently to the side of workers" that she would accept it without holding out for items in the House version, such as more stringent restrictions on corporate recipients of bailout money or funding to states that would move all elections to vote-by mail.
With the full House out of session on a scheduled recess, the bill can still be passed in the House by "unanimous consent" — that is, with the agreement of however many members are in the House chamber. But if even a single member objects, then Pelosi would have to call the full House back into session, which would take time, not to mention the logistical challenges and health risks of bringing all those people to Washington. And if the House reconvenes, that could also mean there'd be amendments — like the House Freedom Cockups demanding piss tests for everyone who gets a $1200 check. If any amendments passed, then there'd have to be a conference committee and more voting like in the Schoolhouse Rock song, and the stimulus bill would be delayed further.
But for now, there is a stimulus bill, and surely it will forestall a recession. Haha, no it won't but it maybe it'll head off a full-on Great Depression. One hopes. As Dear Leader says, we'll see.
Wonkette's own SLUSH FUND, for helping our readers with their bills, is here, if you want to throw some in the kitty.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.