Sasse amendment to fix coronavirus stimulus bill unemployment overpayment defeated

26 Mars, 2020, 17:24 | Auteur: Auguste Feret
  • Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption Celebrating a birthday party by video chat

But she warned Senate Republicans not to tank the bill over what she described as misplaced criticism over jobless benefits.

Eric Ueland, the White House legislative affairs director, said after the agreement was reached that the "the president and his team look forward to swift action for urgently needed assistance to the American people and powerful aid to the nation's economy as we work through this crisis". It will also raise the maximum unemployment insurance benefit by $600 per week.

Aimed at getting the money to Americans and businesses amid the pandemic, the bill's next stop is the House of Representatives, which is scheduled to vote on it Friday.

Sens. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Tim Scott of South Carolina, Rick Scott of Florida and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina argued that, as written, the bolstered unemployment program could provide more money than some workers earn in their paychecks.

Missing from Wednesday's votes was No. 2 Senate Republican John Thune, who said in a statement he did not feel well when he woke up on Wednesday and chose to take a charter flight home to South Dakota "out of an abundance of caution".

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., praised the Senate bill Wednesday night after lambasting an earlier version of the legislation.

"The legislation now before us now is historic because it is meant to match a historic crisis", said Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

The rescue package - which would be the biggest ever passed by Congress - includes a $500 billion fund to help hard-hit industries and a comparable amount for direct payments of up to $3,000 apiece to millions of U.S. families.

The plan includes about $500 billion that can be used to back loans and assistance to companies, including $50 billion for loans to USA airlines, as well as state and local governments.

Still, Pelosi said the need for more money for NY is "no reason to stop the step we are taking".

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The bill sets aside $250 billion 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.

Last weekend, Democrats had walked away from bipartisan talks among senators in favor of negotiating more directly with Mnuchin and the White House to get a final deal that reflected more of their priorities.

It also includes a $340 billion supplemental package to combat the outbreak itself, including $117 billion for hospitals, $45 billion for FEMA's disaster relief fund and $11 billion for vaccines, therapeutics and other medical needs.

McConnell chafed at the tactics but supported the end result.

Q: Will the bill fix the economy and fully address the pandemic?

The plan also includes several Democratic oversight initiatives. A Treasury Department special inspector general would be appointed to scrutinize the lending decisions and detect any abusive or fraudulent behavior. The package, which underwent several revisions after contentious debate between lawmakers - particularly over the $500 billion loan provision - also stipulates that businesses run by Trump's family or any senior lawmakers can not receive loans through the Federal Reserve fund.

There are also provisions to ban stock buybacks for the term of government assistance, plus an additional year for any company receiving a government loan from the bill. In addition, it establishes worker protections attached to federal loans for businesses, and it prohibits airlines from using the funds for CEO bonuses.

Calling it an "emergency relief", Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said at the Senate floor earlier in the day that the package will "help the people of this country weather this storm".

Get all the latest news on coronavirus and more delivered daily to your inbox. Republicans were tepid about the package, but Trump endorsed it and it ultimately passed Congress with the support of 90% of lawmakers in both chambers.

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