Second Stimulus Checks: Could Trump Veto the Relief Bill?

Congress voted Monday to authorize a second round of stimulus payments to households as part of its roughly $900 billion coronavirus relief legislation. President Trump had been expected to sign the legislation, but he criticized the deal Tuesday night and called on lawmakers to increase direct payments to Americans to $2,000 from $600. Here is what we know:

Will President Trump veto the legislation?

“I am asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000 or $4,000 for a couple,” Mr. Trump said in a tweeted video Tuesday night. The White House hasn’t said what Mr. Trump will do if Congress doesn’t meet that request. Some of the president’s aides said they viewed his resistance more as the president voicing his displeasure with the bill than an actual veto threat.

Will the second stimulus payments be delayed?

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Monday that the first batch of payments could go out at the beginning of next week. As of Wednesday, Treasury staff were still working to meet that time frame, and the department believes it can get money out the door quickly if a relief bill is signed into law by the president. But if Mr. Trump vetoes the legislation, which passed both chambers by veto-proof margins, Congress would need to either pass a new bill to meet his demand for larger stimulus checks or vote to override his veto. Most lawmakers left Washington for the holidays after the bill’s passage. If Mr. Trump doesn’t sign or veto the bill within 10 days after it is passed, it would become law without his signature, and the government could begin sending out checks.

Source: WSJ

Scores Of Private Charitable Foundations Got Paycheck Protection Program Money

Scores of private charitable foundations, set up by some of the nation’s wealthiest people, received money from the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program, which was created last spring to save jobs at small businesses as the coronavirus tanked the economy.

NPR has identified at least 120 foundations that collectively received more than $7.5 million in PPP funding. That’s a small slice of the overall program, which disbursed about a half-trillion dollars, but some of the foundations are linked to individuals of considerable means: an oil magnate, a cable television tycoon, a dermatologist called the father of modern hair transplantation, and an aviation entrepreneur who founded companies with annual sales of more than a billion dollars.

Recipients also include the Walt Disney Family Foundation, the foundation of late celebrity photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and a foundation affiliated with multibillionaire investor Warren Buffett.

Private foundations appear to have been eligible for PPP funding because many of them have employees, and the program’s purpose was to protect jobs. But some nonprofit experts questioned the public perception of monied foundations, which have tax-exempt nonprofit status, being subsidized by U.S. taxpayers when they could have tapped their own assets to cover expenses.

Vaccine Boosts Fed Confidence That Worst-Case Outcomes Can Be Avoided

Federal Reserve officials have something new to talk about at their policy meeting this week: good news.

This might sound a little absurd. Covid-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths are hitting records. States and localities are imposing new restrictions on dining and other activities. Claims for unemployment benefits are rising, and the jobless rate fell in November for the wrong reasons—more workers stopped seeking jobs.

But last week’s emergency authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration of a coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE , plus a second candidate from Moderna Inc. also under review, is a potential economic game-changer because it could reduce uncertainty for households, businesses and policy makers.

“There is a bridge to somewhere now. You’re no longer just putting fingers in a dike that’s about to burst,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at accounting firm Grant Thornton. “We still have a lot of wounds to dress. But now you can see an end date, and it’s likely to happen in 2021.”

Fed officials face an economic outlook with little precedent. Economic growth is at risk of slowing further in the next few months and then revving up. How to navigate these developments will be the focus of the central bankers’ two-day meeting that concludes Wednesday.TO READ THE FULL STORY.

Source: WSJ

Will There Be Second Stimulus Check Before End of 2020?

While Democratic and Republican lawmakers have expressed new optimism that they will reach a coronavirus-aid deal, the current round of talks excludes a second round of stimulus checks for households. Here is the latest on the negotiations, and a look at whether checks could still be on the table.

Where do talks stand?

A bipartisan group of lawmakers has been working for weeks on a $908 billion package of coronavirus aid, much of which has been agreed upon. But lawmakers are still in negotiations over how to work out the two thorniest components: funding for state and local aid and what sort of legal protections to provide businesses, schools and other entities operating during the pandemic. Lawmakers have said they hope to finalize an agreement and turn it into legislative text in the next couple of days. Congressional leaders have been involved in the discussions, but could play a larger role in coming days.

Will that agreement include another round of stimulus checks?

The current bipartisan proposal includes enhanced jobless aid, but doesn’t include funding for another round of direct payments that would reach most households. Including payments similar to the $1,200-plus checks in the spring would cost hundreds of billions of dollars, and Republicans have been clear that $900 billion is already more than they would like to spend. Many Republicans are terming this round of talks an emergency aid package, rather than a stimulus plan.

But the White House has pushed Republicans to pursue a new round of checks, according to people familiar with the matter, of at least $600 a person.

So is it possible a deal could include stimulus checks?

It’s not out of the question yet. Democrats and a few Republicans are still pushing to add a second round of stimulus checks into any agreement this year. And before the election, President Trump urged Congress to send him additional coronavirus aid that included another round of direct checks. Sen. Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) said Monday he had urged Mr. Trump to veto any bill that didn’t include them. And many Democrats are still hoping to see them included.

Source: WSJ

Energy Pipelines’ Bad Year Has a Silver Lining

Low oil prices aren’t exactly at the top of pipeline operators’ wish lists, but they do come with one possible upside: They could help boost the value of existing infrastructure.

Depressed oil demand has led energy companies across the value chain—from those pumping it, to those transporting, refining and converting it into other products—to hold back on new investments. Permitting challenges already were slowing down new pipelines. The pandemic’s shock to the oil market was like slamming on the brakes.

In the third quarter, capital expenditures in the oil-and-gas industry were less than half the lowest level recorded in the economic crisis in 2009, according to Dean Forman, chief economist at the American Petroleum Institute. The decline in spending applies not only to companies pumping oil and gas but also those in the crucial business of transporting and refining hydrocarbons. In the midstream sector, capital expenditures were down almost 30% year over year in the third quarter, according to API data.

Just as investors are asking for more discipline from producers of oil and natural gas, they also are demanding moderation from pipeline operators. Project return thresholds are getting higher for these companies, and investors are asking them to give priority to debt repayment rather than new projects, according to Timm Schneider, head of Americas energy and utility equity research at Citi Research.

All of that adds more speed bumps to new pipeline additions. President Trump’s moves to expedite controversial projects came with the unintended consequence of fueling challenges to permits that stood on shakier legal ground. The incoming Biden administration is unlikely to make things easier.

Source: WSJ

Trump-Era Tax Rule Benefiting Some Multinationals May Get Revised Under Biden

WASHINGTON—A Trump administration regulation that cut the tax bills of companies such as Philip Morris International Inc. and Sealed Air Corp. could be poised for reversal in 2021 as the Biden administration tries to deliver on its campaign promise to raise taxes on corporations.

The rule, which gives some corporations a path out of a U.S. minimum tax on foreign earnings, has drawn criticism from progressives, including Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the top Democrat on the Finance Committee.

“These regulations let megacorporations choose how they want to be taxed,” he said. “They could take the massive tax cut Republicans gave them, or they could take an even bigger tax cut the Treasury Department pulled out of thin air.”

If Democrats don’t take control of the Senate after Georgia’s runoff elections in January, regulatory changes present the clearest paths to one of President-elect Joe Biden’s campaign promises: higher taxes on U.S. companies’ foreign operations.

The Biden transition team declined to comment. It would likely take months for the new administration to hire Treasury Department officials, make a decision and follow the procedures needed to revise or repeal the regulation.

Source: WSJ

Covid-19 Resurgence and the Election Changed Calculus for Aid Negotiators

WASHINGTON—When Rep. Ro Khanna called for Democrats to embrace a $1.8 trillion deal with the White House back in mid-October, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wasn’t happy.

“Ro Khanna, that’s nice. That isn’t what we’re going to do,” Mrs. Pelosi said on CNN, when asked about a tweet from her fellow California Democrat urging leaders to finalize an agreement with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The tense interview drew widespread attention—including from Mr. Khanna’s own mother, who had some questions for her son.

“My mom is a great admirer of Speaker Pelosi” and an avid cable-news watcher, Mr. Khanna said in an interview Friday. “So she texted me saying, ‘What are you doing? You have to be in line with the Speaker!’ ”

At the time, Mrs. Pelosi and other Democratic leaders backed a $2.4 trillion bill passed by the House, and negotiations continued. A deal never came together, derailed by the politics of the approaching election and policy debates over testing for the virus, funding for state and local governments and other issues. Senate Republicans also made clear they would support spending only around $500 billion, putting them out of step with the Trump administration.

Now, lawmakers from both parties are throwing their support behind a package valued at roughly $900 billion, nearly double what Senate Republicans were backing before the election, and only half of what Mr. Khanna and some other Democrats said the party should have accepted. As with most congressional compromises, the final result is likely to leave few fully satisfied.

Source: WSJ

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