The Senate late Wednesday passed an unparalleled $2.2 trillion economic rescue package steering aid to businesses, workers, and health care systems engulfed by the coronavirus pandemic. The unanimous vote came despite misgivings on both sides about whether it goes too far or not far enough and capped days of difficult negotiations as Washington confronted a national challenge unlike it has ever faced, the AP reports. The 880-page measure is the largest economic relief bill in US history. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appeared somber and exhausted as he announced the vote—and he released senators from Washington until April 20, though he promised to recall them if needed. “Pray for one another, for all of our families, and for our country," he said. Senate passage delivered the legislation to the Democratic-controlled House, which is expected to pass it Friday.
The sprawling measure is the third coronavirus response bill produced by Congress and by far the largest. It builds on efforts focused on vaccines and emergency response, sick and family medical leave for workers, and food aid. It would give direct payments to most Americans, expand unemployment benefits, and provide a $367 billion program for small businesses to keep making payroll while workers are forced to stay home. It also includes help for airlines and hospitals. It comes as the pandemic has killed more than 21,000 people worldwide including, as of early Thursday, 1,050 people in the US. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, asked how long the aid would keep the economy afloat, said: “We’ve anticipated three months. Hopefully, we won’t need this for three months." Four Republican senators threatened to block the bill, but ultimately settled for a failed vote to modify the provision they didn't like. (For more details on the bill, see highlights here.)