Sen. Elizabeth Warren joined her colleagues to pass the Senate coronavirus relief bill, even though she believes it falls short of what’s needed to respond to the pandemic.
“This is not the bill I wanted, but its immediate investments are vital,” the Massachusetts senator tweeted late Wednesday night. “They are also insufficient. We will need to do more – and soon.”
We face a public health crisis that threatens to bring another Great Depression. Families, hospitals, & small businesses need immediate aid. This is not the bill I wanted, but its immediate investments are vital. They are also insufficient. We will need to do more – and soon.
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) March 26, 2020
The historic $2 trillion relief bill passed unanimously, 96-0, in a Senate vote late Wednesday night and will likely be passed in the House on Friday.
A compromise between the White House, Senate Republicans, and Democrats, the package sends an unprecedented amount of aid to individuals and businesses affected by the staggering economic toll of the pandemic (3.3 million people filed for unemployment last week). The bill includes $1,200 in direct payments to people who made up to $75,000 last year, a 13-week extension of unemployment insurance, a $350 billion forgivable loan program for small businesses, around $280 billion in combined assistance to states and health care systems, and up to $500 billion to bail out industries, like airlines and hotels, hit hardest by the social distancing efforts needed to blunt the spread of the disease.
Still, economists say it’s not enough to stave off a recession.
And Warren — who oversaw the last big stimulus package passed by Congress during the Great Recession — is particularly concerned about the quarter of the bill devoted to saving big business.
The $500 billion includes a $425 billion fund controlled by the Federal Reserve to provide loans to distressed industries. Warren blasted the original proposal as “a slush fund for giant corporations.”
But after several days of negotiations this week, Democrats secured new accountability provisions, including a congressionally appointed board to oversee the fund and an inspector general with subpoena power. The final bill also requires the details of each loan to be disclosed to Congress within seven days and to the public within 14 days, according to Sen. Chuck Schumer. Schumer, the Demoratic minority leader, credited Warren for sharing lessons from the 2008 bailout, which has been widely criticized for lacking provisions to benefit workers.
“The old bill, you wouldn’t know for six months anybody who got the loans,” Schumer said Wednesday on MSNBC. “And frankly, Elizabeth Warren, who’s had experience with this with the TARP, had helped us — had many suggestions we incorporated into the accountability provisions.”
For her part, Warren says they should still go further.
I won’t block vital aid but tomorrow we get back up and continue the fight. And I make you this promise: I will spend every waking moment watching the Trump Administration and do everything I can to hold it accountable for how it spends this $450 billion taxpayer fund.
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) March 26, 2020
“We got some limits, but they are short of what’s needed,” she tweeted. “I won’t block vital aid but tomorrow we get back up and continue the fight. And I make you this promise: I will spend every waking moment watching the Trump Administration and do everything I can to hold it accountable for how it spends this $450 billion taxpayer fund.”
Over the weekend, Warren had called for all industry bailout money to come with a number of conditions, such as requiring recipients to use the funds to keep workers on payroll, permanently prohibiting them from engaging in stock buybacks, and banning them from paying out dividends or executive bonuses within three years of receiving any relief. During a conference call with local Massachusetts businesses Thursday, the senator said she didn’t believe the fund should be the “price of getting help to small businesses and families.”
“It was part of what the Republicans demanded for getting this stimulus package,” Warren said. “I tried to get as much oversight into that part of the package as possible, and I will be exercising as much oversight as possible over how this money gets spent.”
Warren had also called for the stimulus package to include increased Social Security payments by $200 a month and the broad cancellation of student debts — two planks of her 2020 presidential campaign. In a Medium post Thursday morning, she also called for subsequent legislation to increase the country’s coronavirus testing capacity, including a requirement that President Donald Trump utilize the Defense Production Act to direct private industry to produce more medical equipment.
“These problems are real — but they are not insurmountable,” Warren wrote.
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