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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signaled tepid support Wednesday for the Senate’s multitrillion-dollar coronavirus response package, saying the bipartisan deal has moved from “corporations-focused to workers-first” and her colleagues will review the plan.
The statement came as text of the sprawling, $2 trillion plan was released, with the Senate barreling toward a likely vote sometime Wednesday after two failed attempts on the original version of the legislation earlier in the week.
Senate lawmakers and Trump administration officials negotiated late into the night to reach a deal. But even if it passes the upper chamber, support in the Democrat-controlled House is key. Pelosi had scrambled talks by pursuing a separate House bill that contained provisions Republicans decried as extraneous and political in nature.
In a written statement, Pelosi indicated, however, she is open to the latest Senate version.
“America is facing a grave health crisis with a serious impact on our economy. I salute the strong leadership of Chuck Schumer and Senate Democrats,” she said Wednesday. “I especially thank our House Democratic Committee Chairmen, who worked hard to move the Republican proposal from corporations-focused to workers-first and who will now review the legislative text of this agreement with our Caucus.”
Pelosi went on to say that the original Senate GOP legislation, which was blocked by Democrats twice in the Senate, “was a non-starter.”
“This bipartisan legislation takes us a long way down the road in meeting the needs of the American people,” Pelosi said.
The speaker went on to say that the new package “does not go as far” as the bill she and House Democrats proposed on Monday, but that “due to the unity and insistence of Senate and House Democrats, the bill has moved a great deal closer to America’s workers.”
It remains unclear whether Pelosi's caucus will get on board with the bill, or whether any last-minute hurdles will emerge on the Senate side, as lawmakers say they want to send relief to Americans dealing with the economic fallout from the pandemic immediately. The House has adjourned and is not expected to meet again until late Thursday morning.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on the floor Wednesday that his chamber would act on the legislation later in the day, calling it an “emergency relief” measure more than a “stimulus” package.
“Nobody thinks legislation can end this. You cannot outlaw the virus,” he cautioned. “It’s the American people who will beat this virus.”
Democrats had claimed the earlier Senate bill did too much for large corporations and didn’t do enough for workers. Upon reaching an agreement with Republicans and the White House, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the bill amounts to “unemployment compensation on steroids," and that every American who is laid off will have their missed salary remunerated. That provision will enable companies to stay afloat and immediately bring back those employees when things are safe, Schumer said.
Democrats said the package specifically would help replace the salaries 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.
The package also would give one-time payments of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child directly to the public.
The massive economic relief package would 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, given that Democrats wanted them to abide by new carbon emissions restrictions.
Republicans also won inclusion of an "employee retention" tax credit that's estimated to provide $50 billion to companies that retain employees on payroll and cover 50 percent of workers' paychecks. Companies would also be able to defer payment of the 6.2 percent Social Security payroll tax.
Other provisions in a related package, according to a summary, include $100 billion for direct aid to health care institutions battling the crisis; more than $4 billion to health agencies; $200 million to help nursing homes cope with the challenge; $45 billion for FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund; and $400 million in election assistance to help states expand early voting and vote-by-mail options.
McConnell, R-Ky., has not yet set a time for a vote.
“Democrats are finally taking ‘yes’ for an answer," McConnell said in his remarks on the Senate floor early Wednesday morning. "Help is on the way.”
“After days of intense discussions, the Senate has reached a bipartisan agreement on a historic relief package for this pandemic,” he continued. “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.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who was smiling after McConnell left the floor, told reporters: "This is a very important bipartisan piece of legislation that is going to be very important to help American workers, American business and people across America. So, we couldn't be more pleased. I've spoken to the president, many times today, and he's very pleased with this legislation, and the impact that this is going to have.”
Meanwhile, the House may seek to pass the legislation via unanimous consent because many members are not in Washington -- but a single member can ruin that plan.
The House used unanimous consent during the 1918 flu pandemic as well.
Fox News' Chad Pergram, Caroline McKee, John Roberts and The Associated Press contributed to this report.