House passes sweeping coronavirus response package
Trump’s approval came after a hard-fought — and chaotic — day of negotiations, with Democrats and Republicans alike unsure whether the president was on board with the proposal. For several hours before Trump’s tweet, talks had devolved into a state of confusion, with key officials on both sides directly contradicting each other on whether a deal exists.
“Because it was essential for us to have legislation pass the House by this weekend, it required intense and constant negotiations for what could have been an elusive agreement,” Pelosi said in a letter to fellow Democrats after 10 p.m. on Friday, thanking them for their patience amid the frenetic back-and-forth with the administration.
Pelosi had announced to her members shortly after 6 p.m. that she had reached a deal. But House Republicans — and even Hoyer, the No. 2 House Democrat — had said talks were still ongoing and a deal had not yet been reached.
Key Republicans cautioned that there were still lingering issues related to a tax credit for paid family sick leave. McCarthy later confirmed that Republicans sought more flexibility for small business owners who would be forced to offer paid leave to affected workers.
Adding to the confusion, Mnuchin surprised even members of his own party by announcing on Fox Business that he had reached an agreement with Pelosi. The Treasury secretary had huddled with Trump just minutes before — a meeting that delayed his appearance on the network for so long that Mnuchin ran out of time to speak before the program ended.
Trump eventually tweeted his support hours later, delivering long-awaited relief to hundreds of members and aides who had spent 48 hours in limbo awaiting any updates about the status of the funding package.
“I fully support H.R. 6201: Families First CoronaVirus Response Act, which will be voted on in the House this evening,” Trump tweeted. “I have directed the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor to issue regulations that will provide flexibility so that in no way will Small Businesses be hurt. I encourage all Republicans and Democrats to come together and VOTE YES!”
One of the other major obstacles involved the president’s personal demand for a payroll tax cut in this package. That idea has little support on Capitol Hill, and Democrats have already said it would be debated as part of future coronavirus crisis-related legislation at a later date.
McCarthy, who met with Trump and Mnuchin multiple times in the last 24 hours, confirmed that Trump had sought the last-minute addition, and said Republicans would push for it in Congress’s next tranche of economic relief, which could come later this month or in April.
“I believe this will not be the only one,” McCarthy said, alluding to future aid packages related to the outbreak. “This is something that the president wants, we would have liked to have that as well. I think that would have taken a little more time.”