Stimulus package now at $2 trillion as congressional leaders race to clinch agreement Sunday
The massive emergency aid package being negotiated on Capitol Hill has grown to roughly $2 trillion as bicameral, bipartisan leaders are set to come together to try and clinch a final agreement, according to two people directly involved in the talks.
The fate of a final proposal — and quite possibly the American economy — will be in the hands of the four congressional leaders and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, all of whom will gather in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office on Sunday.
The scale of the package — which has grown by over a trillion dollars over the course of several days and by more than $500 billion just during Saturday’s negotiations alone, the people said — underscore the recognition of the urgency brought on by the accelerating spread of the coronavirus pandemic that has all but shuttered the American economy over the last week.
Staff worked through the night — some in the office past 3 a.m. ET, people told CNN — to draft the legislative language to reflect the status of the negotiations between the four bipartisan working groups that have been cloistered in closed Senate hearing rooms for hours over the course of an urgent last few days.
Republicans have expressed optimism that a deal is in the offing, but there are still a handful of hurdles that have kept Democratic negotiators from fully signing on. That said, lawmakers on both sides acknowledge that a deal is imperative as soon as possible, with a procedural vote to move forward on the package set for Sunday afternoon and a final vote to pass any agreement set for as soon as Monday.
Mnuchin appeared on “Fox News Sunday” and said lawmakers have a “fundamental understanding” that a deal has been reached to pass a massive stimulus bill as soon as tomorrow.
McConnell struck an optimistic tone Saturday night, saying in a statement the negotiations would produce a compromise that should be able to pass the Senate with an overwhelming bipartisan majority.
Still, a final agreement has not been reached and there are still Democratic objections to the text Republicans have put together to this point, according to people familiar with the Republican effort to this point. Democrats also raised concerns that Republicans moved ahead with drafting the final proposal before a global deal in principle had been reached.
“Democrats very much want to reach a bipartisan agreement to address this major health and economic crisis,” Justin Goodman, spokesman for Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, said in a statement Saturday night. “There is not yet an agreement, and we still have not seen large parts of the Republican draft.”
Key outstanding issues, according to people involved in the talks and those who have seen the draft Republican proposal, center on two fronts: the total aid package that can be directed to the states and the restrictions included in the aid pool created for distressed large industries.
That piece of the package has grown to more than $500 billion, according to a person familiar with the Republican bill as its drafted to this point, grants significant discretion to the Treasury secretary in terms of how the money must be used and the scale of the restrictions for the companies that receive loans as it relates to future stock buy backs — a key ask for Democratic negotiators.
Democrats have also continued to push for an expansion of stabilization funds for states and localities — a request from the National Governors Association. While a significant amount of money has been included, much of it through the addition of the supplemental emergency funds that has been fold into the bill, Democrats have pressed for more as states face significant budget shortfalls in the months ahead.
Democrats have, however, secured wins on several other key priorities, including an expansion and enhancement of unemployment insurance to the tune of at least $250 billion, the people said. They have also negotiated significant funds to be directed toward health care providers and front line health workers.
Bipartisan negotiators also reached an agreement in principle on a $350 billion forgivable loan package for small businesses that would be designed to keep employees paid even as business ground to a halt.
The total cost of the package has been the subject of some confusion over the last 24 hours, with Larry Kudlow, the director of President Donald Trump’s National Economic Council, saying Saturday it would end up around $2 trillion, only to later clarify that included the legislative package, plus the leverage deployed through a Federal Reserve lending facility.
Now, however, the legislative package alone has reached $2 trillion, the people said.
CNN’s Lauren Fox, Ted Barrett, Sarah Westwood and Manu Raju contributed to this story.
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