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White House, Senators Strike Stimulus Deal: Congress Update


By Josh Wingrove and Laura Litvan

(Bloomberg) Senators were negotiating the final sticking points in a roughly $2 trillion stimulus bill to help the U.S. economy get through the coronavirus pandemic. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell criticized Democrats for blocking two procedural votes that pushed back the timeline for passing the relief package.Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has been meeting with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to resolve Democrats’ complaints about the Republican legislation. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, has introduced a counterproposal from House Democrats that adds up to $2.5 trillion.

White House, Senate Democrats Strike Stimulus Deal (1:02 a.m.)

The White House reached a deal with Senate Democrats and Republicans on a $2 trillion stimulus plan to respond to the economic shock of the coronavirus outbreak after several days of tense negotiations, according to two people familiar with the talks.

Details weren’t released but negotiators were working on a package that includes billions in assistance to companies and states and cities; checks to most Americans, loans and aid for small businesses to maintain their payrolls, more expansive unemployment insurance, deferrals of taxes, and numerous other provisions.

The Senate could vote as soon as Wednesday. The House also would need to pass the bill before it gets to President Donald Trump’s desk. — Josh Wingrove and Laura Litvan

White House Legislative Aide Departs (12:15 a.m.)

Mike McKenna, who served as the White House deputy legislative director, left his job on Tuesday, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The development comes as negotiations over a stimulus bill stretched late into the night. It’s unclear why McKenna, a longtime energy lobbyist who joined the White House late last year, is departing. The Washington Post, which reported his departure earlier, quoted McKenna saying that someone filed a complaint against him, but he didn’t know what it was over. — Josh Wingrove

Deal Close But Vote Unlikely Before Wednesday (10:13 p.m.)

A deal on the economic stimulus bill is near, but a vote in the Senate on Tuesday night is highly unlikely, a Senate leadership aide said.

Schumer and Mnuchin reconvened talks in the New York Democrat’s office in the Capitol at around 8:30 p.m. Washington time, said a person familiar with the negotiations.

There has been no announcement of a final deal, although Schumer, other lawmakers and Mnuchin have expressed continued optimism a deal will be reached and have said there are few remaining obstacles.

Lawmakers in both parties are being asked to push a measure through the chamber quickly. But the text of the legislation hasn’t been circulated and signed off by congressional leaders and the White House.

Senate Bill Best Option for GOP, Scalise Says (6:32 p.m.)

Top House Republican vote-counter Steve Scalise told his whip team Tuesday that the best option for the GOP in that chamber is to accept a Senate-passed economic stimulus bill, according to Scalise spokeswoman Lauren Fine.

Scalise emphasized that time is of the essence and that an alternative bill proposed by Pelosi is not serious, Fine said.

The Republican positioning on the bill will be critical to whether it is passed swiftly in a voice vote, sought by leaders of both parties, that wouldn’t require members to return to Washington for a roll-call vote.

Stimulus Deal Snags on Abortion Providers (5:47 p.m.)

A fight over abortion providers like Planned Parenthood is one of the remaining holdups in negotiations over the Senate’s stimulus bill, according to a person familiar with the talks.

Democrats want abortion providers to be eligible for aid under the small business portion of the bill, the person said.

Republicans had put in language barring nonprofits that receive Medicaid funding, which includes Planned Parenthood, from accessing that aid.

A Democratic aide said more than Planned Parenthood would be affected by the disputed language. It would also block assorted other nonprofits from accessing the money, including nursing homes, mental health providers, rape crisis centers, home health agencies and group homes for people with disabilities, the aide said. — Steven T. Dennis

Negotiators Close In on Tax Provisions (4:20 p.m.)

Two measures to temporarily help companies facing cash-flow crunches will be included in the stimulus bill deal that could be announced as soon as Tuesday, according to two people familiar with the discussions.

The provisions — a delay for employers to submit the payroll taxes they owe and an expanded deduction for the interest expense companies pay on loans — will give businesses a tax reprieve as the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic could leave them struggling to pay employees and cover costs.

Senators are still haggling over a technical tweak in the stimulus bill that would deliver large tax breaks to restaurants and retailers. Republicans are pushing to include the fix to the 2017 tax law that would allow restaurants and retailers to deduct the costs for renovating stores in a single year, instead of spreading it out over several.

Republicans say this will help boost businesses hard hit as consumers are advised to stay home as the coronavirus spreads — and it would fix an embarrassing error written into their tax cut law. Democrats say they want a broader rewrite of the 2017 tax cut before correcting a mistake.

Separately, Schumer told members of his party he’s confident the bill will include additional funding to help localities combat the virus: $150 billion for a state and local stimulus fund and $130 billion for hospitals, according to a person familiar with the call.

Democrats Told to Expect Two More Virus Bills (2:39 p.m.)

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told Democrats there could be two more rounds of fiscal stimulus, according to two people on the party’s Tuesday conference call.

Pelosi, speaking on the same call, said one of the unresolved issues in the Senate bill currently under discussion is a 15% increase in funds for food stamps, the people said.

The current Senate bill could cost roughly $2 trillion.

House GOP to Start Rounding Up Votes for Bill (1:33 p.m.)

House Republican vote-counters led by Steve Scalise will have a conference call with members Tuesday in case the Senate passes a coronavirus stimulus bill, according to an official familiar with the plans.

So-called “remote whipping” of the House Republicans will be aimed at securing unanimous GOP support for the Senate bill. That outcome is not certain, the official said.

House members haven’t been in Washington for more than a week. Earlier Tuesday, Pelosi suggested a Senate-passed bill could obtain swift House approval through a voice-vote without members returning to Washington, so it could be sent to President Donald Trump to be signed into law.

That would require none of the chamber’s Democrats or Republicans to object. Otherwise, House members would have to return to take a standard, recorded vote on the House floor.

Pelosi and House Democrats have a caucus-wide conference call set for 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Schumer Sees Stimulus Talks on Brink of Success (12:06 p.m.)

Schumer said negotiations are on the 2-yard-line for an economic package that contains “lots of good things.”

Of the remaining outstanding issues, “I don’t see any that can’t be overcome in the next few hours,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.

“It will put money into the hands of those who need it so much because they’ve lost their jobs,” he said. “I hope and I pray that we can come together very quickly.”

He said the plan would include “unemployment insurance on steroids” that would keep workers on their companies’ payrolls with unemployment insurance and the government paying their “full salary for four months.” That would keep companies together so they can restart quickly later, Schumer said.

He also said there would be quicker disclosure of which big companies get loans and aid from the government and oversight of expenditures. — Laura Litvan

Democrats Seek Clean Energy Link to Oil Reserve (10:51 a.m.)

Senate Democrats are trying to link a $3 billion purchase of oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to a slew of clean energy tax credits in the coronavirus relief bill.

Schumer has been pushing for solar and wind credits in exchange for agreeing to a Republican plan to purchase 77 million barrels of crude oil for the nation’s emergency oil stockpile, according to a democratic aide familiar with the negotiations.

McConnell’s initial draft last week had the oil purchase but not the aid to alternative energy. Pelosi’s version of the stimulus package contains no provision for adding oil to the emergency supplies.

Republicans have blasted efforts to use the stimulus bill as a vehicle for environmental policy initiatives, saying Democrats are trying to exploit concerns about the U.S. economy to pursue other policy priorities.

“This is not about the ridiculous Green New Deal,” President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday. “It is about putting our great workers and companies BACK TO WORK!”

Pelosi Says ‘Real Optimism’ for Agreement Today (10:16 a.m.)

Pelosi said she would let the House approve a Senate-passed coronavirus stimulus with a voice vote that doesn’t require members to travel to Washington — as long as the bill does not have any “poison pills” Democrats object to.

“I think there is real optimism that we could get something done in the next few hours,” said Pelosi of the negotiations, appearing on CNBC. “Overarchingly, I think we are getting to a good place, if they stay there.”

She said it appears the Senate agreed to accept House language that would create both an independent inspector general and a congressionally appointed panel to supervise a $500 billion fund for companies.

“Things like a $500 billion slush fund was really insulting,” Pelosi said. President Donald Trump had dismissed the need for independent oversight on Monday.

She said Senate Democrats “have moved the bill” closer to what House Democrats want.” She is scheduled to talk to House Democrats Tuesday afternoon in a caucus-wide call.

“My goal has always been to bring this bill to the floor through unanimous consent, where we are all in agreement,” Pelosi said. That would not require House members to be present to vote. Two members have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Senate Bill Has Oversight for $500 Billion Fund (9:58 a.m.)

Pelosi said the Senate agreed to strengthen oversight of the $500 billion fund in the Senate bill that includes loans and loan guarantees for corporations and state and local governments, resolving one of Democrats’ main concerns with the stimulus package.

Treasury agreed to both the independent inspector general and the oversight committee to review all lending decisions, according to a person familiar with the negotiation, though not all of the details have been worked out. The setup is similar to the Troubled Asset Relief Program to respond to the 2008 financial crisis, the person said.

“I’m happy that it appears the Senate is taking the House language of oversight,” including an inspector general and a panel appointed by Congress, Pelosi said on CNBC.

Schumer, Mnuchin to Resume Rescue Talks (9:28 a.m.)

Mnuchin will return to Capitol Hill to meet with Schumer in his office at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday to resume negotiations on the stimulus bill, according to two people familiar with the meeting.

Mnuchin may be joined by White House officials including economic adviser Larry Kudlow, Legislative Affairs Director Eric Ueland and possibly acting Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, one of the people said.

After a meeting last night with Mnuchin that ended shortly before midnight, Schumer told reporters in the Capitol that he expects a deal Tuesday morning.

“There are still a few little differences,” according to a transcript of his remarks. “Neither of us think they are in any way going to get in the way of a final agreement.”

He also said that Mnuchin had called the president to tell him that the two sides were close and Trump “seemed very happy with that.”

Trump Pushes Congress to Pass Deal Today (9:03 a.m.)

President Donald Trump continued to lament the lack of a congressional deal for passing a stimulus bill worth $2 trillion or more.

“Congress must approve the deal, without all of the nonsense, today,” Trump tweeted Tuesday morning. “The longer it takes, the harder it will be to start up our economy. Our workers will be hurt!”

Trump said Monday that the American economy can’t remain slowed for too long to fight the coronavirus, declaring that the country “was not built to be shut down.” The number of U.S. cases grew to more than 43,000 on Monday, and the country exceeded 500 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Senate Haggles Over Virus Relief Bill (6 a.m.)

The Senate missed McConnell’s goal of voting on the stimulus package by Monday, but Schumer said the “list of outstanding issues has narrowed significantly.”

Read More: Pelosi’s $2.5 Trillion Virus Bill Delays Mortgage, Car Payments

The Senate and the Democratic-led House will have to pass the same version of the bill to send it to President Donald Trump to sign into law. Pelosi has raised the stakes with a 1,400-page package that includes dozens of long-sought Democratic initiatives.

The House bill is intended to enable concessions, yet produce a more-favorable final settlement with McConnell and Senate Republicans, according to one Democratic official familiar with Pelosi’s strategy. She said Monday that she wanted the Senate bill to move closer to “the values” of the just-introduced House bill.

Pelosi would consider the Senate version “if it’s satisfactory,” she said, “not only to me though, to my leadership, to my members and to our chairmen, who have worked really hard on our bill.”

Trump denounced her bill in a tweet late Monday night: “Republicans had a deal until Nancy Pelosi rode into town from her extended vacation,” he wrote. “The Democrats want the Virus to win? They are asking for things that have nothing to do with our great workers or companies.”

But about the same time, Schumer told reporters at the Capitol that “we expect to have an agreement tomorrow morning.”

“Secretary Mnuchin called the president,” Schumer added, “we told him we are very, very close to an agreement and he seemed very happy with that.”

 



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