Trump's economic rescue package could approach $1 trillion
WASHINGTON — In a massive federal effort, President Donald Trump asked Congress to speed emergency checks to Americans, enlisted the military for MASH-like hospitals and implored ordinary people — particularly socially active millennials — to do their part by staying home to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
His proposed economic package alone could approach $1 trillion, a rescue initiative not seen since the Great Recession. Trump wants checks sent to the public within two weeks and is urging Congress to pass the eye-popping stimulus package in a matter of days.
As analysts warn the country is surely entering a recession, the government is grappling with an enormous political undertaking with echoes of the 2008 financial crisis.
At the Capitol on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed the Senate would not adjourn until the work was done.
“Obviously, we need to act,” McConnell said. "We're not leaving town until we have constructed and passed another bill."
But first, McConnell said, the Senate will vote on a House-passed package of sick pay, emergency food and free testing, putting it back on track for Trump's signature — despite Republican objections. “Gag, and vote for it anyway,” he advised colleagues.
It was a signal of what the GOP leader called the “herculean” task ahead.
Overnight, the White House sent lawmakers a $46 billion emergency funding request to boost medical care for military service members and veterans, fund production of vaccines and medicines, build 13 quarantine centers at the southern border for migrants, make federal buildings safer, and reimburse Amtrak for $500 million in anticipated revenue losses, among other purposes.
The Trump request also reverses cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health that Trump proposed in his February budget for next year and would create a $3 billion fund for unanticipated needs.
Senators gathered at an otherwise shut-down Capitol as Americans across the country were implored to heed advice and avoid crowds. Young adults, in particular, are being urged to quit going out because even seemingly healthy people can be spreading the virus that causes the COVID-19 illness.
Even so, presidential primary elections unfolded in Florida, Illinois and Arizona. Ohio's was called off hours before the polls were set to open.
After a savage drop at the start of the week, the stock market rose as Trump and aides sketched out elements of the economic rescue package at a briefing. Economists doubted that would be enough to stop millions of jobs losses, even if in the short term.
Bigger than the $700 billion 2008 bank bailout or the nearly $800 billion 2009 recovery act, the White House proposal aims to provide a massive tax cut for wage-earners, $50 billion for the airline industry and $250 billion for small businesses. Two people familiar with he package described it to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly.
The amount that would be sent out in checks Americans is not yet disclosed. The White House said it liked GOP Sen. Mitt Romney's idea for $1,000 checks, though not necessarily at that sum and not for wealthier people.
“This is a very unique situation," said Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, exiting a private briefing of Senate Republicans. "We've put a proposal on that table that would attract a trillion dollars into the economy."