Pelosi Schumer
Credit: PBS NewsHour/YouTube Screen Capture

Once Majority Leader McConnell released his plan for a stimulus bill to boost the economy during the coronavirus crisis, Democrats rallied around three major changes that needed to be made to the bill.

  1. Transparency and oversight for the money designated to bail out major corporations affected by coronavirus.
  2. The addition of a “Marshall Plan” for hospitals and health care facilities.
  3. The inclusion of ramped-up unemployment insurance.

While Minority Leader Schumer was negotiating with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin about these changes, McConnell brought his own bill up for a procedural vote in the Senate twice, knowing that it would fail. That allowed him and his colleagues to rant about Democrats and blame them for not recognizing the urgency of the situation.

As I noted previously, that is when Speaker Pelosi stepped up to the plate with an alternative bill for the House to consider. Congressional Republicans proceeded to have a bit of a temper tantrum, with McConnell saying that “we were doing just fine until that intervention.” Of course, McConnell wasn’t doing just fine if the goal was to actually pass a bill.

It was about that time that we started hearing reports about progress being made in negotiations on the Senate side. Late Monday night, both Schumer and Mnuchin indicated that they were closing in on a deal. By Tuesday morning, McConnell and Pelosi were included in the negotiations and Schumer took to the floor of the Senate to indicate that Republicans had agreed to all three changes Democrats were requesting.

What appears to have happened is that McConnell got out-strategized by Schumer and Pelosi. The majority leader seemed to think that he could either shame Senate Democrats into voting for his bill or blame them if it failed. But while Schumer was playing “good cop” in ongoing negotiations with Mnuchin, Pelosi donned the “bad cop” role by sending the message that Republicans should “deal with my partner or here’s what you’ll face in the House.” It worked brilliantly.

Along with oversight for the bailout funds and support for hospitals that have been included in the bill, the plan for unemployment insurance will provide significant relief for American workers. The first thing to note is that independent contractors and gig workers will now qualify for UI. Secondly, for four months, payment will include the normal UI benefit plus $600—up to 100 percent of previous income. Finally, workers don’t need to be laid off to qualify for UI. Companies can simply consider them furloughed, which means that not only can they be hired back, but they can keep their benefits intact. All of that is in addition to the one-time “checks for everyone” that will mean $1,200 per individual adult plus $500 per child.

In addition to that relief, Democrats secured a provision in the bill that prohibits businesses controlled by Trump, Pence, members of Congress and heads of executive departments from getting loans or investments from the funds included in the bill. That prohibition also applies to their spouses, children and in-laws.

Negotiations on this bill continued late into Tuesday night and were finalized shortly after midnight. The Senate is expected to take up the measure almost immediately and Pelosi has said that a strong bipartisan vote in that chamber would make it possible to pass the bill by unanimous consent in the House.

Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.