Senate Passes Coronavirus Bill, Proving Pelosi Gambled With Americans' Lives and Lost

In the wee hours of Wednesday evening, the U.S. Senate finally passed the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill after a great deal of Democrat stalling and a futile effort by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to put forward a separate bill jam-packed with liberal Christmas wish-list items. The bill provides crucial relief to businesses struggling with the social distancing strategy of stopping the spread of the coronavirus. It now heads to the House.

The stimulus bill is far from perfect, but its passage unmasked Pelosi's tactics as a disgraceful waste of time during this crisis. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) slammed the speaker for her attempt to jam her liberal pipe dreams down Americans' throats in the midst of a crisis.

"Democrats wanted to use the coronavirus response package to change election law & implement parts of their Green New Deal. The Senate just passed strong bipartisan legislation that scraps those items, & it’s clear. ⇨ Their delay achieved nothing but more pain for Americans," McCarthy tweeted.

The Senate passed H.R. 748, the CARES Act, by a vote of 96 to zero. Just before the final vote, an evenly-divided Senate rejected (48 to 48) an amendment from Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) to prevent unemployment insurance from incentivizing workers to avoid finding another job during the crisis. The bill provides an extra $600/week to unemployment insurance, leading to a situation where an employee who is fired or laid off may expect to make more money on unemployment than he or she would if he or she accepted a new job.

The bill also includes $25 million for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, which Trump described as a concession for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

The stimulus's central measures involve cash payments and hundreds of billions in bailouts to a wide range of companies. Under the plan, individuals making up to $75,000 per year are expected to receive checks for $1,200. Couples making up to $150,000 would receive $2,400, with an additional $500 per child. The payments would decrease for those making more. The bailouts include $350 billion for small businesses, $500 billion for corporations hurt by the outbreak — especially airlines and cruise lines — and about $150 billion for state and local governments. Another $100 billion will go to assist hospitals.

Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.) shared the text of the bill, which had not been publicly available until just before the vote.

While the Heritage Foundation rightly warned that bailouts are not the best path for providing the aid businesses need, even this conservative think tank acknowledged that since the government encouraged Americans to stay home and avoid most businesses, it arguably should provide crucial relief to make the social distancing bearable.

Senate Democrats twice blocked the measure on Sunday and Monday, however. On Monday, House Democrats under Pelosi filed an alternative stimulus bill packed with liberal pet projects including collective bargaining for unions, a $15/hour minimum wage, a massive slate of election "reforms," and absurd carbon emissions standards for airlines — including the requirement that every airline report the carbon emissions for every single flight, to be advertised along with ticket sales online.

In slamming this bill, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) quoted former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who infamously told The Wall Street Journal, "You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it's an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before."

"Sadly, we’re seeing the embodiment of that cynical approach right now," Cruz declared. He noted that the Democrats' bill includes a provision "changing the emissions standards on airplanes. Mr. President, what the hell do the emissions standards on airplanes have to do with thousands of people dying and millions of people out of work in the coronavirus epidemic?!"

"Don’t treat this bill like a partisan Christmas list," Cruz added. He noted that he'd love to abolish the IRS, but he isn't submitting amendments to every spending bill to get his pet project in there.

Pelosi eventually dropped her bill, but it appears Democrats did get a few of their pet projects in, including the perverse incentives in unemployment insurance and funding for the Kennedy Center. While most of the egregious power grabs were rightly dropped, Pelosi wasted precious time in a crisis.

President Donald Trump wasted no time in promising to pass the bill immediately, should the House pass it.

"I encourage the House to pass this vital legislation and send the bill to my desk for a signature without delay. I will sign it immediately," the president promised during a coronavirus briefing on Wednesday.

Americans should not soon forget that while Republicans rushed to act, Schumer and Pelosi blocked the bill, wasted precious time, and tried to ram their Christmas wish-list items down the throats of Americans in the middle of a crisis.

Tyler O'Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.