Casey touts Democrats work to improve $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill

  • Russ Walker

Pennsylvania’s senior U.S. senator says Democrats deserve credit for improving the $2 trillion coronavirus relief legislation that is expected to be passed later Wednesday.

Without Democrats’ insistence, Sen. Bob Casey (D) said, the bill would not have included billions to assist local and state governments, a $150 billion “Marshall Plan” for health care, billions in loans for small businesses, or strong oversight provisions to ensure taxpayer funds are spent properly.

During a 45 minute press call with Pennsylvania media, Casey ran through highlights of the bill, but more than once couldn’t provide specific details on how the assistance programs will work, a reflection of the relief bill’s complexity and the last-minute nature of the negotiations with Senate Republicans and the White House.

“It’s vitally important that the bill move as quickly as we can after we [Senate Democrats] made vastly important changes,” Casey said.

Asked if he believes President Trump will sign it, Casey said, “I think he will.”

The most important features of the relief bill, Casey said, are:

  • Direct income support to most American taxpayers
  • Expanded unemployment insurance benefits
  • Money for hospitals, nursing homes and community health centers
  • $377 billion in loans for small businesses
  • Appointment of an inspector general and oversight board to oversee relief effort

Casey said he and other Democrats were “really disappointed” that Republicans would not agree to expand food assistance under the SNAP program. He said Democrats proposed a 15 percent increase in the monthly value of benefits, and wanted to create a process for recipients to be able to have their food delivered to their homes.

Casey’s counterpart, Sen. Pat Toomey (R), also spoke with the media on Wednesday. According to WESA, he stressed the importance of the small business assistance included in the legislation and noted that any loans that are used to pay employees would be permanently forgiven for up to 8 weeks of payroll expenses.

“So what it really means is the federal government is paying the payroll for small business,” Toomey said.

The bipartisan deal on the coronavirus relief legislation came after Casey and all but one member of the Democratic caucus blocked the Republican majority from passing a version of the bill crafted by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

According to Axios.com, the final text of the Senate relief bill is still being prepared. Senators could vote later Wednesday to pass it, after which it will need to be passed again in the House of Representatives. A best case scenario would have the bill landing on President Trump’s desk late Thursday or on Friday.

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