Trump Says He Supports Pelosi Virus Bill, Urges GOP to Vote Yes
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said he supports the bill negotiated by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and his Treasury secretary to help Americans deal with the spreading coronavirus outbreak, and the House plans to vote on the measure as early as Friday night.
“I fully support H.R. 6201: Families First CoronaVirus Response Act, which will be voted on in the House this evening,” Trump tweeted. “I encourage all Republicans and Democrats to come together and VOTE YES! I will always put the health and well-being of American families FIRST. Look forward to signing the final Bill, ASAP!“
With Trump’s endorsement, the bill is expected to win support from GOP lawmakers to easily pass the House and be taken up by the Republican-led Senate early next week.
The growing outbreak is beginning to squeeze the U.S. economy as schools and sports teams shut down and businesses scale back or require employees to work from home.
Even though Pelosi said the bill is aimed at helping families, rather than providing broader fiscal stimulus, the bipartisan deal provides a bit of hope for investors who were looking for any indication that policymakers could work together to address the multifaceted crisis.
The deal was announced just hours after Trump declared a national emergency on Friday that would free up as much as $50 billion to help states and cities respond to the health crisis, waive student-loan interest, purchase large quantities of oil and confer new authority on his health secretary to bypass hospital regulations.
As the crisis ballooned, the Federal Reserve was the first to act with last week’s rate cut and this week’s massive repo operations and expanded securities purchases to ease “temporary disruptions” in the market. There is pressure on the Fed’s Open Market Committee to slash interest rates to zero when it meets in Washington March 17-18.
Other countries announced drastically larger fiscal measures to respond to the virus that has closed down supply chains and travel across the globe. Germany pledged to do whatever it takes to save its economy, including $600 billion in loans from the state bank to help companies weather the pandemic.
The House proposal includes free testing for everyone who needs it, and two weeks of paid sick leave to allow people with the virus to stay home from work and avoid infecting co-workers. It also includes enhanced jobless benefits, increased food aid for children, senior citizens and food banks, and higher funding for Medicaid benefits. Democrats made several changes requested by Republicans, including restrictions on federal funding for abortion and a time limit on some of the benefits.
“We could have passed our bill yesterday,” Pelosi told reporters. “But we thought it was important to show the American people, that for the American people, that we are willing and able to work together to get a job done for them.”
“It was really important for us to have a bill right now because the challenge was there,” Pelosi said.
U.S. lawmakers don’t know how much the House bill will cost, and Democrats said they didn’t plan to wait for an estimate from the Congressional Budget Office before voting.
The deal at times appeared teetering on the brink. As he announced a national emergency, Trump cast doubt on on the plan. The president told reporters at the White House that Democrats weren’t giving enough in the negotiations.
“We thought we had something but all of a sudden they didn’t agree to certain things they agreed to,” he said. Yet even as the president spoke, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was working out the final details with Pelosi, according to her office.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who waited to comment on the plan until after Trump announced his endorsement, called the agreement “a really good sign that shows bipartisanship.” It shows we can “beat this virus,” he said.
“I do believe it will get through,” McCarthy said. He said a key change pushed by Republicans will ensure that employers with fewer than 50 employees have flexibility with the requirement that workers get paid sick leave.
Pelosi said while the Senate works on the House bill next week, her chamber will begin working on a third emergency response measure.
Last week Congress passed and Trump signed into law an emergency spending bill that made available about $8 billion to reimburse state and local governments for the cost of preparing for and fighting the virus, stockpile medical supplies and purchase tests, vaccines and therapies to ensure that the poor have access. It also permits Medicare to spend $500 million on telehealth programs for the virus.
With infections multiplying and no vaccine immediately available, Pelosi pushed ahead with a Democrats-only plan earlier this week when the Trump administration didn’t deliver a promised proposal to respond to the economic consequences of the outbreak.
After Trump’s error-filled Oval Office address Wednesday failed to calm roiling equity markets, the president followed up with a news conference Friday afternoon at which he declared a national emergency and announced a set of measures to address a shortage in testing kits and cushion the economic fallout.
Markets rallied at the end of the trading day as Trump spoke, unwinding almost 90% of the previous day’s historic rout.
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