The Senate managed to pass a pandemic relief bill, but will the House?

The Senate was burning the midnight oil but they finally managed to hold a vote and unanimously decide to take ten percent of the national GDP and light it on fire late last night. The final coronavirus relief package cleverly named the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) passed on a 96-0 vote. The final price tag will come in at slightly more than two trillion (with a “T”) dollars. Of course, it can’t go to the President’s desk unless Nancy Pelosi decides to hold a vote on it later this morning, but we’ll get to that in a moment. (NY Post)

The Senate passed a massive coronavirus stimulus bill that sends cash directly to most adults in a bid to shore up the faltering economy.

The bill expected to top $2 trillion and also bails out businesses, hospitals and local governments. It passed late Wednesday night and now heads to the House for final approval.

The package authorizes $1,200 checks for all adults who earn up to $75,000 and creates enormous loan programs for businesses.

A generous boost of $600 per week in unemployment pay led to a final road bump when a group of Republicans sought unsuccessfully to change the bill so the unemployed could not get more than 100 percent of their prior pay.

One trillion of this is going to loans to businesses impacted by the pandemic, with a special carveout for small businesses that avoid layoffs, as well as $150 billion for hospitals. There’s a significant bailout ($25 billion) for public transit systems, with New York City getting a big chunk of that. And, of course, there’s money to cover the checks they’ve been promising to send everyone.

The House is scheduled to start their session at 11:00 this morning. But will it pass? Will Nancy Pelosi even schedule a vote? Keep in mind, as Ed pointed out yesterday, that Pelosi could still be thinking of trying to ram through her own pork-laden version of a relief package.

Not everyone thinks she has that option any longer. Jay Cost opined last night that the Speaker no longer has any leverage in the face of a unanimous vote in the upper chamber.

A small number of Republicans gamely tried to rein in the “unemployment on steroids” part of the package, but there wasn’t enough support for that to happen. That’s regrettable because that portion of the package just seems a bit over the top and the concerns expressed in that regard are valid.

They’re including a boost of $600 per week (!) above and beyond normal state unemployment benefits. Here in New York, the maximum unemployment benefits are already more than $400 per week. This deal would take the maximum benefit to more than $1,000 per week. For an hourly worker, that works out to better than $25 dollars per hour or somewhere north of $50K per year. That’s far above the median income for individual workers.

Unemployment insurance is supposed to be a safety net, not a hammock. I’ve been on unemployment a couple of times in my life after an employer shut down or significantly contracted, and it’s never paid close to what I was making on my last job. The question some of the GOP senators were asking about this seems obvious. If you were making fifteen bucks an hour on your job and got laid off because of the pandemic, what possible incentive would you have to go back to work if the government was giving you a 66% raise to stay home? I’m not saying everyone would go that route, but you know for a fact that a lot of people would. Putting a cap on the unemployment benefits so they wouldn’t exceed the worker’s regular income would have lowered the costs while keeping everyone afloat.

Getting back to the bill’s prospects in the House today, I tend to agree with Jay Cost. The public is now aware that all of these goodies are on the table and that the Senate has finished their work. If Pelosi shoots it down at this point and sends them back to the drawing board in an effort to get more of the liberal wishlist items she was previously asking for, she’s going to own this fiasco lock, stock, and barrel. And when those checks don’t show up in the mail so people can pay their April bills, nobody is going to be blaming Donald Trump or the GOP. (Well, except for the anchors at MSNBC and CNN, but that was always a given.)