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Bernie Threatens to Block $2 Trillion Coronavirus Bill — Unless He Gets His Way on Jobless Benefits

Bernie Threatens to Block $2 Trillion Coronavirus Bill — Unless He Gets His Way on Jobless Benefits

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Sen. Bernie Sanders said on Wednesday he was prepared to put a hold on a $2 trillion Senate coronavirus economic relief bill unless a group of Republican senators drop their objections to language on jobless benefits in the legislation.

Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott of South Carolina, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Rick Scott of Florida earlier in the day protested a proposal to add $600 per week to unemployment insurance for up to four months.

The four Republican lawmakers threatened to drop their support for the nearly final legislation, if the provision was not removed.

Sanders, an independent who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, said in a tweet: “Unless these Republican senators drop their objections, I am prepared to put a hold on this bill until stronger conditions are imposed on the $500 billion corporate welfare fund.”

Stocks tumbled following Sanders’ announcement, CNBC reported.

Senators are set to vote on Wednesday on a $2 trillion bipartisan package of legislation to alleviate the devastating economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The plan would include direct payments of up to $1,200 each to millions of Americans, with additional payments of $500 per child. Payments would be phased out for those earning more than $75,000 a year. Those earning more than $99,000 would not be eligible.

MORE: Trump Pushes Through Massive Stimulus Bill — Americans to Get Payments Up to $3,000

Under the bill, a $500 billion stabilization fund for hard-hit businesses, states and cities would be established.

That would include $25 billion in grants for airlines, $4 billion for cargo carriers and $3 billion for airline contractors to cover payroll costs. The U.S. government could get stock or other equity in return. Executive pay above $425,000 a year would be frozen for two years.

It also includes $17 billion in loans for “businesses important to maintaining national security,” aimed at Boeing.

The rest would go toward loans, loan guarantees and investments for companies and nonprofits unable to get financing through other sources. Companies tapping the fund would not be able to engage in stock buybacks and would have to retain at least 90 percent of their employees through the end of September. They would not be able to boost executive pay by more than $425,000 annually, and those earning more than $3 million a year could see their salaries reduced.

The fund would be overseen by an inspector general and a congressional oversight board. The Treasury secretary would have to disclose transactions.

Businesses owned by President Donald Trump, other administration officials or Congress members, or their family members, would not be eligible for assistance.

MORE: Schiff Says US Is Indebted to Hollywood — Asks Congress to Pay Coronavirus Benefits to Entertainers

(Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Tim Ahmann)

Cover image: Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., speaks at a Fox News town hall in Dearborn, Michigan, on March 9, 2020. (Screen grab)

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