Business & Economy

On The Money: Hopes fade for coronavirus relief deal this month | Burr problem grows for GOP | Layoffs hit record high of 11 million in March

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THE BIG DEAL—Hopes fade for coronavirus relief deal this month: Striking a bipartisan deal over a new coronavirus relief bill is becoming increasingly unlikely before June with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) at odds over additional legislation.

  • Though the House is expected to vote on a $3 trillion bill as soon as Friday, that piece of legislation has been declared “dead on arrival” in the Senate, where Republicans are taking a wait-and-see approach.
  • The stalemate almost certainly ensures the House, Senate and White House won’t get an agreement on, and pass, another rescue package before the Memorial Day recess. 
  • Senators say that while they expect to pass something eventually, it probably won’t happen between now and next Friday when the recess begins.

The Hill’s Jordain Carney tells us why here.

Timing crunch: If the Senate doesn’t pass a bill before May 22, that will kick any potential vote until June at the earliest. The Senate typically leaves town on Thursday afternoon, giving lawmakers four working days if they wanted to try to take up a bill — something leadership in both parties said is unrealistic.

Different levels of urgency: Talk of doing a new relief bill comes as the coronavirus continues to ravage the economy, even as some states are starting to lift social distancing restrictions that forced businesses to close — some temporarily, others permanently. More than 36 million Americans have filed for unemployment since mid-March, according to the Labor Department.

  • McConnell and other Republicans are calling for a “pause” on additional legislation to respond to the crisis, even though some GOP lawmakers are weighing potential ideas for what would be a fifth piece of legislation in response to the crisis.
  • Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), asked if the Senate would wait until after the break to pass a fifth bill, said, “I don’t think there’s a sense of urgency to do it now.”
  • Democrats have slammed McConnell for not coming to the negotiating table to discuss what a fifth rescue bill would look like, with Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) predicting that “the pressure will grow on the Republicans” once the House passes its measure.



Burr problem grows for GOP: Sen. Richard Burr’s (R-N.C.) decision to temporarily step down as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee amid an FBI probe into his stock transactions shook Senate Republicans this week.

While Republicans praised Burr for stepping aside and offered support for their colleague, they acknowledged the FBI’s seizure of Burr’s cellphone created difficult optics for Republicans battling to retain their Senate majority.

  • One Republican senator who requested anonymity to comment on the political problem created by the FBI raid said the best-case scenario would be for Burr to be exonerated by the Justice Department before the Nov. 3 elections. The Republican acknowledged it looks bad for Senate Republicans as a whole but added that it would look worse if Burr resigned from office altogether.
  • GOP senators who did speak on the record also acknowledged the potential of an image problem.

The Hill’s Alexander Bolton tells us more here.


Record 11.4 million Americans were laid off in March amid the pandemic: More than 11 million Americans were laid off in March as the coronavirus pandemic and the desperate measures adopted to fight it devastated the U.S. economy, according to data released by the Labor Department on Friday.

  • The number of U.S. workers laid off or fired by their employers rose to 11.4 million in March from roughly 1.8 million February. 
  • Layoffs and other discharges made up nearly all of the 14.5 million employee separations in March as the pandemic forced thousands of businesses to close or restrict their operations.
  • The percentage of U.S. workers separated from their jobs rose to 9.6 percent in March from 3.7 percent in February, while the portion laid off or fired rose to 7.5 percent in March from 1.2 percent the prior month.

While layoffs are a normal and expected part of a dynamic economy, the record-breaking surge in March reflects the start of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

Heidi Shierholz, policy director at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, noted that 24 million American have filed new claims for unemployment benefits since the end of March, tweeting that Friday’s data “only shows the beginning of the devastation.”

“The human suffering and lost productive potential represented by these numbers is immeasurable,” she continued.

The job turnover data was among several dismal batches of economic data released Friday:

  • Retail sales fell 16.4 percent in April from March’s total and 21.6 percent from April 2019 levels, stripping the U.S. economy of a critical source of growth.
  • Manufacturing output also plunged by 13.7 percent in April, the biggest monthly decline since the Federal Reserve began tracking industrial production more than 100 years ago.



  • Kroger is ending its $2-an-hour pay increase for those working amid the pandemic and replacing it with a one-time $400 bonus, the grocery chain announced Friday. 
  • The tax-related provisions in House Democrats’ proposed coronavirus relief bill would reduce federal revenue by a net of $883 billion from fiscal years 2020 to 2030, Congress’s tax scorekeeper said in an analysis released Friday.
  • The Department of Justice (DOJ) and a group of state attorneys general are likely to file antitrust lawsuits against Google, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
  • The Commerce Department announced Friday that it would restrict Chinese telecom group Huawei’s ability to use American technology and software to manufacture semiconductors, the latest step by the Trump administration to crack down on the company.
  • J.C. Penney announced Friday it has filed for bankruptcy, marking the largest retail industry casualty thus far during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • As the nation’s smallest businesses struggle to survive the coronavirus crisis, a bipartisan group of lawmakers wants to throw them a special lifeline.
  • Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) introduced legislation on Friday that would provide liability protections for meat processing facilities mandated by President Trump to remain open.
Tags Dick Durbin Donald Trump John Cornyn Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Richard Burr Vicky Hartzler

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