The lights were on Capitol Hill and in the White House past midnight on Tuesday and into the wee hours of Wednesday morning as Republicans and Democrats negotiated a bill containing what White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow called it the “single largest Main Street assistance program in the history of the United States.”
It will be voted Wednesday afternoon and go the President soon after for his assent, whereupon the US Treasury would start sending checks to most Americans. Despite the relative speed with which lawmakers acted, it is expected to take several weeks for the checks to go out even as the situation on the Main street is getting desperate with mass unemployment following closure of businesses across the country.
Under provisions that were negotiated by lawmakers, single Americans could receive $1,200, married couples can expect $2,400, and parents could see $500 for each child under age 17. The payments would start to phase out for individuals with adjusted gross incomes of more than $75,000, and those making more than $99,000 would not qualify at all. The thresholds are doubled for couples.
The legislation would also create a $367 billion loan program for small businesses and a $500 billion lending fund for industries, cities and states. Hospitals can access a $130 billion fund.
Democrats bragged that they had stopped indiscriminate and unsupervised bailout for big corporations and political elites during tough negotiations — including specific provisions that would prevent Trump and his family business of accessing the funds — even as Republicans accused them of indulging in nickel and dime bargaining and delaying legislation.
The legislation was finalized even as the US President made pronouncements that could have far reaching implications for trade and commerce, including for India, saying the current crisis had shown that it is critical for the US to have independent pharmaceutical manufacturing, a strong US energy supply, and effective border control to limit the country’s dependency on foreign nations.
“We should never be reliant on a foreign country for the means of our own survival,” Trump said during a White House briefing on the crisis. “I think we’ve learned a lot. This crisis has underscored just how critical it is to have strong borders and a robust manufacturing sector.”
“Our goal for the future must be to have American medicine for American patients, American supplies for American hospitals, and American equipment for our great American heroes. Now both parties must unite to ensure America is truly an independent nation in every sense of the word,” he added.
Trump has long complained that his predecessors had ceded manufacture of vital sectors such as steel and aluminum to foreign powers, succumbing to the globalization argument that it makes sense to allow manufacturing to go where it is cheap and efficient. The result of the policy is that Americans are now at the mercy of China — and to some extent India — for everything from antibiotics, Vitamin C, and ibuprofen to masks and gloves, at the very time Washington is unhappy with Beijing over the coronavirus crisis.
Trump dialed down on his criticism of China, including calling Covid-19 a “Chinese virus” amid reports of targeting and stigmatization of the Chinese-American community.
“It is very important that we totally protect our Asian American community in the United States and all around the world. They’re amazing people and the spreading of the virus is not their fault in any way, shape or form. It seems that there could be a little bit of nasty language toward the Asian Americans in our country and I don’t like that at all…These are incredible people, they love our country and I’m not going to let it happen,” Trump said.
Trump also insisted the country would be ready to be reopened by Easter Sunday despite calls for restraint from areas that are several affected, notably New York and California.
While the President is itching for life to get back to normal, state leaders are actually proposing tougher steps to shut down businesses – from the Mayor of Los Angeles Eric Garcetti announcing water and power will be shut off for nonessential LA businesses that don’t close, to New Yorkers who have fled the city being warned to self-quarantine given the high incidence of infection in the Big Apple.