Minutes before a vote on a massive, $1.8 trillion coronavirus relief bill, which had been scheduled for 3 p.m. EDT in the United States Senate, Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell postponed the vote until later in the day. The postponement was caused in part by Democratic objections to a provision of the bill that set aside $500 billion in what they call a Donald Trump administration "slush fund" for big businesses and corporations, according to a report by The Washington Post.
The bill could give Trump secret control over the $500 billion "slush fund" because the government is not required to reveal who receives the money, Democrats say.
The "slush fund" would be a reservoir of cash to be doled out as loans and loan guarantees for businesses. But the decisions about which businesses get the cash would be completely up to the "discretion" of the administration, according to the Democratic objections, as quoted via Twitter by Politico reporter Jake Sherman. The bill also would allow the administration to keep the recipients of the bailout cash secret for six months.
In other words, the Democratic memo states, the "Trump Admin could give $$ to Trump properties."
That is, Trump could direct that his own hotels, golf resorts and other affected holdings receive bailout money — and he would not be required to reveal those payouts until September at the earliest.
At a press briefing on the coronavirus crisis Saturday, Trump said that his own businesses are suffering financially as a result of the crisis. Asked whether Trump Organization properties could receive federal bailouts, Trump said he did not know.
The funds could also go straight to banks and other financial institutions, while Democrats say that the proposed coronavirus relief bill does too little to directly help American workers and families.
"They're throwing caution to the wind for average workers and people on Main Street and going balls to the wall for people on Wall Street," West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said, as quoted by The Washington Post.
According to another internal Democratic Congressional memo quoted via Twitter by Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent, the bill also contains only "weak" provisions to prevent companies from pumping their bailout cash into mass buybacks of their own stock, in order to drive up share prices. In addition, those provisions can be waived by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.
The bill limits the amount that corporate executives can use to give themselves raises but only for two years, and also includes "weak" language to prohibit large-scale layoffs by companies that receive the federal funds, according to the memo quoted by Sargent.