By Robert Schroeder, MarketWatch
The Senate late Wednesday approved a sweeping package designed to cushion the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on Americans, sending the measure to the House of Representatives for a planned vote on Friday.
The bill is worth $2 trillion and would provide $1,200 direct payments to adults making up to $75,000 a year, offer $350 billion in loans to small businesses and set up a $500 billion fund to lend to industries, cities and states. Read text of bill .
“Our nation needed us to go big, and go fast,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in Wednesday-morning remarks on the Senate floor.
“Big help, quick help, is on the way,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said.
The vote was a unanimous 96-0. Republican Sens. Mike Lee, Rand Paul and Mitt Romney are self-quarantining, and did not vote. Fellow GOP Sen. John Thune is self-monitoring in his home state of South Dakota, his spokesman said, and also missed the vote.
U.S. stocks /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +0.56% , which soared Tuesday on rising expectations for a deal, traded higher on Wednesday afternoon, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA +1.12% up nearly 500 points after an up-and-down start to the day. Dow futures /zigman2/quotes/210407078/delayed YM00 +0.93% dipped following the index’s two-day rally.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, had previously said the House could pass the bill by so-called unanimous consent. But late Wednesday she said she didn’t believe that option — which requires every lawmaker to agree — would work. She said in an interview with PBS that she was open to a roll-call vote if a member wants one.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland said the House will vote on Friday.
Henrietta Treyz of Veda Partners said she anticipated President Donald Trump would sign the bill perhaps by Saturday.
A snag over unemployment aid held up speedy passage of the bill in the Senate. Republicans, including Ben Sasse of Nebraska, identified what they said may be an error in the bill involving benefits. Furloughed workers would get an extra $600 a week under the bill, which the senators said could create an incentive for staying laid off.
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, said he would put a hold on the bill unless the Republican senators dropped their objections.
An amendment to satisfy Sasse and fellow GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Tim Scott of South Carolina and Rick Scott of Florida failed Wednesday, allowing the Senate to turn to a final passage vote.
The threat by Sanders saw stocks pare gains in the final half hour of trading, with stocks finishing well off their highs.
Other details of the package, which was written by Trump administration officials and Democratic and Republican Senate leaders, include $50 billion in funding and loans for passenger airlines , and more than $100 billion for hospitals and veterans’ care.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he expects Americans to receive their direct payments in three weeks.
With economic activity dramatically winding down across much of the country, Trump is seeking to have it “opened up” by Easter, which falls on April 12. The president has said he would evaluate the administration’s coronavirus containment strategy early next week after a 15-day period elapses. The goal of that initiative was to encourage social distancing.
Speaking at the White House, Trump urged the House to pass the bill and said “I will sign it immediately.”
Governors and health experts have pushed back on Trump’s timeline as new coronavirus cases continue to rise.
Read on: COVID-19 case tally