The U.S. Senate, with the approval of Colorado’s senators, passed the largest economic stimulus package in American history late Wednesday night, an approximately $2 trillion boost to workers, businesses, corporations and the health care system.
The legislation passed by a vote of 96-0, with aye votes from Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, and Sen. Michael Bennet, a Denver Democrat. Both Colorado senators made clear earlier in the day that they supported the massive agreement.
“It needs to pass now. It should have passed days ago,” Gardner said in a speech on the Senate floor, after emerging from self-quarantine because he came in contact with a coronavirus patient. “I don’t think the American people give a hoot whether this idea was a Republican idea or this idea was a Democrat idea.”
The senator, who faces re-election in November, made repeated pleas for unity during his speech and predicted there will be further legislation to deal with the dire economic fallout from coronavirus and the business closures it has caused.
“This country’s been through the Great Depression. We’ve been through the Great Recession. We will make it through the Great Infection. That’s what we do as a country. That’s who we are as a people,” Gardner said.
Before the vote, Gardner and Bennet voted against an amendment from Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., to cap unemployment benefits at a worker’s full salary.
In remarks Wednesday, Bennet criticized Senate Republicans for not including a $600-per-week unemployment insurance increase, which was later added at the request of Senate Democrats. He also credited Democrats with adding money for the health care system, middle-class Americans and lower-class Americans.
“States and local governments not only have to fight this health crisis, they have to pay teachers, police and firefighters, even as their tax revenues collapse,” Bennet said in a lengthy statement. “The initial bill included nothing to help them confront these yawning budget caps. It was ridiculous.”
“Too many people played politics and peddled misinformation this week,” Bennet added. “We fought to keep this plan focused on supercharging our health care response, while providing much-needed support to workers, families and businesses.”
The bill now goes to the House, where it’s expected to pass Friday. Rep. Ken Buck, a Windsor Republican who has opposed coronavirus response bills this month, criticized the latest bill Wednesday and signaled he will vote against it.
“This ‘coronavirus response’ package has special carve-outs of $75 million for public broadcasting and $50 million for museums and libraries,” Buck, who leads the Colorado Republican Party, said on Twitter. “That’s $125 million for pet projects instead of for struggling families and businesses. Democrats are again exploiting a crisis to fund their liberal wish list.”