Categories
Politics

Historic $2.2 trillion coronavirus bill passes U.S. House, headed to Trump

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday approved a $2.2 trillion aid package – the largest in American history – to help people and businesses cope with the economic downturn inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The massive bill also rushes billions of dollars to medical providers on the front lines of the outbreak. Republican President Donald Trump said he would sign it at 4 p.m. EDT (2000 GMT).

“Our nation faces an economic and health emergency of historic proportions due to the coronavirus pandemic, the worst pandemic in over 100 years,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at the close of a three-hour debate on the House floor. “Whatever we do next, right now we’re going to pass this legislation.”

Democrats and Republicans in the Democratic-led House approved the package on a voice vote, turning back a procedural challenge from Republican Representative Thomas Massie, who had sought to force a formal, recorded vote that could have delayed its passage.

Massie, an independent-minded Republican who has repeatedly defied party leaders, wrote on Twitter that he thought the bill contained too much extraneous spending and gave too much power to the Federal Reserve. His fellow lawmakers overruled his request.

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On Twitter, Trump called Massie a “third rate Grandstander” and said he should be thrown out of the Republican Party. “He just wants the publicity,” wrote Trump, who last week began pushing for urgent action on coronavirus after long downplaying the risk.

Democratic and Republican leaders asked members to return to Washington to ensure there would be enough present to head off Massie’s gambit. Lawmakers from as far away as California were present for the debate. The session was held under special rules to limit the spread of the disease among members, who used hand sanitizer and in at least one case wore protective gloves.

At least three members of Congress have tested positive for the coronavirus and more than two dozen have self-quarantined to limit its spread.

The Senate, which approved the bill in a unanimous vote on Wednesday evening, has adjourned and is not scheduled to return to Washington until late April.

Older people have proven especially vulnerable to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The average age of House members was 58 at the beginning of 2019, well above the average age of 38 for the U.S. population as a whole.

‘THE VIRUS IS HERE’

Democratic and Republican leaders appeared together at a news conference to celebrate the bill’s passage — an unusual event for a chamber that is normally sharply divided along partisan lines.

“The virus is here. We did not ask for it, we did not invite it. We did not choose it. But with the passing of the bill you will see that we will fight it together, and we will win together,” said Kevin McCarthy, the top House Republican.

He did not say whether Massie would face any disciplinary measures from the party.

The rescue package is the largest fiscal relief measure ever by Congress.

The $2.2 trillion measure includes $500 billion to help hard-hit industries and $290 billion for payments of up to $3,000 to millions of families.

It will also provide $350 billion for small-business loans, $250 billion for expanded unemployment aid and at least $100 billion for hospitals and related health systems.

The rare but deep bipartisan support in Congress underscored how seriously lawmakers are taking the global pandemic as Americans suffer and the medical system threatens to buckle.

On Thursday, the United States surpassed China and Italy on as the country with the most coronavirus cases. The number of U.S. cases passed 87,000, and the death toll exceeded 1,300.

Adding to the misery, the Labor Department reported the number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits surged to 3.28 million, the highest level ever.

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Politics

Pelosi expects bipartisan House vote for $2 trillion coronavirus bill Friday

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she expected the chamber to pass an estimated $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill when it meets on Friday, after the Senate overwhelmingly approved the unprecedented economic rescue legislation Wednesday evening.

“Tomorrow we’ll bring the bill to the floor. It will pass with strong bipartisan support,” Pelosi, a Democrat, told reporters.

The legislation will rush direct payments to Americans within three weeks once the Democratic-controlled House passes it and Republican President Donald Trump signs it into law, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

The Republican-led Senate approved the bill – which would be the largest fiscal stimulus measure ever passed by Congress – by 96 votes to zero late on Wednesday, overcoming bitter partisan negotiations and boosting its chances of passing the House.

The unanimous Senate vote, a rare departure from bitter partisanship in Washington that followed several days of wrangling, underscored how seriously members of Congress are taking the global pandemic as Americans suffer and the medical system reels.

“When there’s a crisis of this magnitude, the private sector cannot solve it,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said.

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“Individuals, even with bravery and valor, are not powerful enough to beat it back. Government is the only force large enough to staunch the bleeding and begin the healing.”

The package is intended to flood the country with cash in an effort to stem the crushing impact on the economy of an intensifying pandemic that has killed about 1,000 people in the United States and infected nearly 70,000.

Pelosi said there was no question more money would be needed to fight the coronavirus. She said House committees would be working on the next phase in the near term, even if the full chamber is not in session. She said lawmakers would need to be on call for possible votes.

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy also backs the relief plan, but said he wanted it to be allowed to work before deciding whether more legislation was needed.

“This will be probably the largest bill anybody in Congress has ever voted for,” he told reporters.

Only two other countries, China and Italy, have more coronavirus cases than the United States. The World Health Organization has warned the United States looks set to become the epicenter of the pandemic.

The American government’s intervention follows two other packages that became law this month. The money at stake amounts to nearly half of the total $4.7 trillion the federal government spends annually.

Trump, who has promised to sign the bill as soon as it passes the House, expressed his delight on Twitter. “96-0 in the United States Senate. Congratulations AMERICA!” he wrote.

Pelosi said House leaders were planning a voice vote on the rescue plan on Friday, but said leaders would be prepared for other contingencies. She had said a day earlier that if there were calls for a vote recorded by name, lawmakers might be able to vote by proxy, as not all would attend.

“If somebody has a different point of view (about the bill), they can put it in the record,” she said, referring to the Congressional Record.

McCarthy predicted the measure would pass Friday morning following a debate.

The massive bill, worth more than $2 trillion, includes a $500 billion fund to help hard-hit industries and a comparable amount for direct payments of up to $3,000 apiece to millions of families.

The legislation will also provide $350 billion for small-business loans, $250 billion for expanded unemployment aid and at least $100 billion for hospitals and related health systems.

The House has 430 members, most of whom have been out of Washington since March 14. Many want to return for the vote, but for all to attend would be difficult, given that at least two have tested positive for the coronavirus, a handful of others are in self-quarantine, and several states have issued stay-at-home orders. There are five vacant House seats.

The Senate’s No. 2 Republican, John Thune, missed Wednesday’s vote because he was not feeling well. His spokesman said Thune, 59, flew back to his state, South Dakota, on a charter flight Wednesday, accompanied by a Capitol Police officer and wearing a mask.

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Politics

Historic $2.2 trillion coronavirus bill passes U.S. House, becomes law

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday approved a $2.2 trillion aid package – the largest in history – to help cope with the economic downturn inflicted by the intensifying coronavirus pandemic, and President Donald Trump quickly signed it into law.

The massive bill passed the Senate and House of Representatives nearly unanimously. The rare bipartisan action underscored how seriously Republican and Democratic lawmakers are taking the global pandemic that has killed more than 1,500 Americans and shaken the nation’s medical system.

“Our nation faces an economic and health emergency of historic proportions due to the coronavirus pandemic, the worst pandemic in over 100 years,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at the close of a three-hour debate before the lower chamber approved the bill. “Whatever we do next, right now we’re going to pass this legislation.”

The massive bill also rushes billions of dollars to medical providers on the front lines of the outbreak.

But the bipartisan spirit seemed to end at the White House. Neither Pelosi nor Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer was invited to Trump’s all-Republican signing ceremony for the bill, aides said.

Their Republican counterparts, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, did attend, along with three Republican House members.

“This will deliver urgently needed relief to our nation’s families, workers and businesses,” Trump said. “I really think in a fairly short period of time … we’ll be stronger than ever.”

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The Democratic-led House approved the package on a voice vote, turning back a procedural challenge from Republican Representative Thomas Massie, who had sought to force a formal, recorded vote.

To keep Massie’s gambit from delaying the bill’s passage, hundreds of lawmakers from both parties returned to Washington despite the risk of contracting coronavirus. For many, that meant long drives or overnight flights.

One member who spent hours in a car was Republican Representative Greg Pence, the brother of Vice President Mike Pence, whom Trump has put in charge of efforts to handle the coronavirus crisis.

Pence drove the nearly 600 miles (966 km) from his home state, Indiana, to Washington on Thursday. “We can’t afford to wait another minute,” he said on Twitter.

‘THIRD RATE GRANDSTANDER’

Massie wrote on Twitter that he thought the bill contained too much extraneous spending and gave too much power to the Federal Reserve, the U.S. central bank. His fellow lawmakers overruled his request for a recorded vote.

Trump attacked Massie on Twitter, calling him a “third rate Grandstander” and saying he should be thrown out of the Republican party. “He just wants the publicity,” wrote the president, who last week began pushing for urgent action on coronavirus after long downplaying the risk.

Democratic and Republican leaders had asked members to return to Washington to ensure there would be enough present to head off Massie’s gambit. The session was held under special rules to limit the spread of the disease among members.

At least five members of Congress have tested positive for the coronavirus and more than two dozen have self-quarantined to limit its spread.

The Senate, which approved the bill in a unanimous vote late on Wednesday, has adjourned and is not scheduled to return to Washington until April 20.

Democratic and Republican House leaders appeared together at a news conference at the Capitol to celebrate the bill’s passage — an unusual event for a chamber that is normally sharply divided along partisan lines.

“The virus is here. We did not ask for it, we did not invite it. We did not choose it. But with the passing of the bill you will see that we will fight it together, and we will win together,” McCarthy said.

He did not say whether Massie would face any disciplinary measures from the party.

The rescue package is the largest fiscal relief measure ever passed by Congress.

The $2.2 trillion measure includes $500 billion to help hard-hit industries and $290 billion for payments of up to $3,000 to millions of families.

It will also provide $350 billion for small-business loans, $250 billion for expanded unemployment aid and at least $100 billion for hospitals and related health systems.

The number of coronavirus cases in the United States exceeded 100,000 on Friday, according to a Reuters tally, the most of any country.

Adding to the misery, the Labor Department reported the number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits surged to 3.28 million, the highest level ever.

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World News

U.S. Senate passes $2 trillion bill for 'strange and evil' coronavirus crisis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate on Wednesday unanimously backed a $2 trillion bill aimed at helping unemployed workers and industries hurt by the coronavirus epidemic, as well as providing billions of dollars to buy urgently needed medical equipment.

After bitter negotiations, the deeply divided Senate came together and passed the bill by a 96-0 vote, which sent the massive stimulus package to the House of Representatives for a vote on Friday.

President Donald Trump, whose top aides helped negotiate the bipartisan measure, promised to sign it into law as soon as it reaches his desk. “I will sign it immediately,” Trump told reporters on Wednesday.

The rescue package – which would be the biggest ever passed by Congress – includes a $500 billion fund to help hard-hit industries and a comparable amount for direct payments of up to $3,000 apiece to millions of U.S. families.

The legislation will also provide $350 billion for small-business loans, $250 billion for expanded unemployment aid and at least $100 billion for hospitals and related health systems.

The package is intended to flood the economy with cash in a bid to stem the impact of an intensifying epidemic that has killed more than 900 people in the United States and infected at least 60,000.

Only two other nations, China and Italy, have more coronavirus cases and the World Health Organization has warned the United States looks set to become the epicenter of the global coronavirus pandemic.

Top aides to Trump and senior senators from both parties announced that they had agreed on the unprecedented stimulus bill in the early hours of Wednesday after five days of talks.

But it was delayed by criticism from both the right and left on Wednesday, pushing the final vote on passage almost another full day.

Several Republican senators had insisted the bill needed to be changed to ensure that laid-off workers would not be paid more in unemployment benefits than they earned on the job. However, an amendment that would have changed the unemployment provision failed just before the Senate approved the measure.

There had been criticism of the bill from the most progressive wing of the Democratic-led House. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called it “a historic corporate giveaway” on Twitter.

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HOUSE VOICE VOTE ON FRIDAY

However, House leaders hoped the bill would pass by voice vote on Friday, without representatives having to return to Washington. Bringing more than 400 lawmakers from as far away as Hawaii and Alaska would be difficult because a few are in self-quarantine and several states have issued stay-at-home orders.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she hoped the bill would pass quickly, and that Congress would pass further legislation if necessary to ease the crisis going forward.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo had criticized the bill, saying the $3.8 billion allocated to his state would not cover tax revenue it will lose from reduced economic activity. New York accounts for roughly half of all U.S. coronavirus cases.

Pelosi expressed sympathy, but wanted the rescue package to move on. “We (Congress) do have to do more, but that would be no reason to stop this step that we are taking,” she told CNN.

The stimulus package follows two others that became law earlier this month. The money at stake amounts to nearly half of the $4.7 trillion the U.S. government spends annually.

Investors were cheered by the news of the deal. On Wall Street, the benchmark S&P 500 .SPX rallied for a second straight day, closing up 1.15%.

Senate leaders noted the historic nature of the challenge, as the country grapples with what the Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called “a strange and evil disease.”

“Our nation obviously is going through a kind of crisis that is totally unprecedented in living memory,” Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said shortly before the vote on passage.

McConnell also announced that, after passing the bill, the Senate would leave Washington and be in recess at least until April 20. He said he would give senators 24 hours notice if they needed to come back to Washington for another vote before then.

Missing from Wednesday’s votes was No. 2 Senate Republican John Thune, who said in a statement he did not feel well when he woke up on Wednesday and decided to take a charter flight home to South Dakota “out of an abundance of caution.”

Thune did not say whether he had coronavirus symptoms, although he said he was not advised to self-quarantine.

Another Republican senator, Rand Paul, announced on Sunday he had tested positive for the illness, and a handful of others have self-quarantined after being exposed to Paul or others who have had it.

(Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: open tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.)

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Politics

U.S. Congress still awaits $2 trillion coronavirus aid deal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrats and Republicans in the divided U.S. Congress said they were close to a deal on a $2 trillion stimulus package to limit the coronavirus pandemic’s economic toll, but a vote on the bill on Tuesday looked increasingly unlikely as talks stretched on.

“If the words all magically came together, we could vote early this evening. But my guess is that it’ll probably be sometime tomorrow morning,” Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy told reporters on Tuesday evening.

The $2 trillion proposal would include a $500 billion fund to help hard-hit industries and a comparable amount to send direct payments of up to $3,000 to millions of U.S. families, as well as $350 billion for small-business loans, $250 billion for expanded unemployment aid and at least $75 billion for hospitals.

It aims to stem the heavy economic impact of a pandemic that has killed more than 660 people in the United States and sickened more than 50,000, shuttered thousands of businesses, thrown millions out of work and led states to order 100 million people – nearly a third of the population – to stay at home.

The money at stake in the stimulus legislation amounts to more than what the U.S. government spends on national defense, scientific research, highway construction and other discretionary programs.

Assistance to states was among issues negotiators discussed on Tuesday, according to a senior official from President Donald Trump’s administration, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress, said negotiators had agreed to more oversight provisions for the proposed $500 billion to help hard-hit industries, resolving one sticking point.

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The latest version would increase unemployment benefits by up to $600 a week, ensuring that many who lose their jobs would not see a drop in income, according to a Democratic aide. U.S. jobless benefits vary by state, but currently are up to $450 a week, below the poverty line for a family of four.

The bill calls for an inspector general and a bipartisan congressional panel to monitor the industrial aid, sources said.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the administration’s point man in the stimulus talks, would have to tell lawmakers about what companies were tapping the aid, according to the administration official. Companies would face restrictions on stock buybacks and executive pay.

Negotiators were also near an agreement to include $32 billion in grants to passenger and cargo airlines, sources said. They would have to choose between accepting grants or loans but could not receive both.

Democrats have twice blocked attempts to advance a Republican-authored stimulus bill in the Senate, saying it did not provide enough money for states and hospitals, lacked sufficient aid for unemployed Americans and provided inadequate supervision of the massive fund to aid big businesses.

Wall Street bounced back on Tuesday from three-year lows on hopes the massive bipartisan stimulus would be announced.

Trump, who is campaigning for re-election on Nov. 3, has said he wants Americans to return to work more quickly by easing a public health clampdown intended to slow the virus’ spread. State officials have warned that step could mean more deaths.

‘ALL OF THE NONSENSE’

Republicans, Democrats and top Trump aides have negotiated for days over the package, which would be the third and by far largest to address the crisis if it is backed by the Senate and the Democratic-led House and signed by the Republican president.

Pelosi said on MSNBC that the House could unanimously pass the legislation once it clears the Senate, but might also try to change it. That would lead to further delays and possibly require House members to return to Washington.

Some Democrats on a conference call grumbled about being asked to pass the bill by unanimous consent. One moderate, Representative Stephanie Murphy, said the bill should contain only provisions directly related to the pandemic response.

Representative Steny Hoyer, Pelosi’s top House deputy, said there would be one or two more coronavirus relief packages in the weeks to come.

“Congress must approve the deal, without all of the nonsense, today. The longer it takes, the harder it will be to start up our economy,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

Top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the $2 trillion stimulus bill would work in tandem with $4 trillion in bolstered lending power by the Federal Reserve.

Pelosi has introduced her own $2.5 trillion counterproposal that also includes $4 billion to allow states to conduct the November presidential and congressional elections by mail.

Pelosi’s legislation would likely be irrelevant if a bipartisan deal is forged in the Senate.

Republicans normally hold a slim 53-47 Senate majority, meaning they need Democratic support to garner the 60 votes required to advance most legislation.

But the coronavirus has given Democrats even more leverage. Republican Senator Rand Paul tested positive for the coronavirus and four other Republicans are also unable to vote because they were exposed to Paul or others with it.

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Politics

Coronavirus relief bill slows in U.S. Senate, talks continue

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate’s drive to pass a $1-trillion-plus coronavirus response bill remained stymied late on Sunday, as Democrats held out for more money to help state and local governments and hospitals, while Republicans urged quick action to give financial markets a sign of encouragement.

Earlier on Sunday, the Senate failed to get the necessary 60 votes in the 100-member chamber to get the Republican plan over a procedural hurdle after days of negotiations, with 47 senators voting in favor and 47 opposed.

Later on Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, announced he would hold a repeat vote early on Monday, only to be blocked by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer.

In response, McConnell accused Democrats of “reckless behavior” that could further upset financial markets and delay much-needed aid to battle the coronavirus outbreak.

But Democrats held their ground with Schumer calling the Republican plan “a giant, giant corporate bailout fund with no accountability.”

Amid the partisan attacks, Schumer said that private negotiations were making progress. White House legislative liaison Eric Ueland told reporters a “handful” of disagreements still had to be resolved.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin shuttled between the offices of the Republican leader and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer in search of a deal. At one point, Mnuchin also indicated to reporters that progress was being made.

The negotiations marked Congress’s third effort to blunt the economic toll of a disease that has killed at least 420 people in the United States and sickened more than 33,000, leading governors to order nearly a third of the nation’s population to stay at home and putting much business activity on hold.

Following two successful emergency aid bills, this latest effort includes financial aid for regular Americans, small businesses and critically affected industries, including airlines.

Democrats raised objections to the Senate Republicans’ bill throughout the day, with Schumer saying it had “many, many problems” and would benefit corporate interests at the expense of hospitals, healthcare workers, cities and states.

The failure of the measure to move forward sent Democrats and Republicans back to the bargaining table. The speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, said that Democrats in that chamber will begin crafting an alternative bill.

Schumer said more money was needed for community health centers, nursing homes, masks, ventilators, personal protective equipment and aid to state and local governments.

On the Senate floor, a visibly angry McConnell accused Democrats of obstruction.

“Even if Democrats reverse course tomorrow, the vote they cast today will almost certainly cause more Americans to lose their jobs and more seniors hard-earned retirement savings to literally evaporate,” he said.

Lawmakers were mindful that a failure to reach a deal on Sunday could batter already reeling financial markets on Monday.

But Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said that would not rush Democrats into a deal they do not want.

“Markets always come back,” he said.

In a sign of the disease’s spread, Republican Senator Rand Paul on Sunday said he had tested positive. Republican Senators Mike Lee and Mitt Romney said they would self-quarantine as a result.

At a White House briefing on Sunday, President Donald Trump said he still had hope that a massive aid package could pass Congress swiftly.

“They are very close to getting a deal done,” Trump said. “So I’d be surprised if they didn’t and if they don’t, I think frankly the American people will be very upset with the Democrats because the Republicans are ready to approve a deal. The only reason a deal couldn’t get done is pure politics.”

Vice President Mike Pence said 254,000 Americans have been tested for the virus and slightly more than 30,000 have tested positive.

Trump said he had activated the National Guard in the three states hardest hit by the outbreak: California, New York and Washington.

The Senate bill’s controversial provisions included those aimed at helping corporations, rather than workers, as well as those allowing the government to delay disclosing what firms, states or municipalities had received aid for up to six months.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the leading Democratic candidate to challenge Trump in the November U.S. presidential election, blasted the president’s handling of the crisis.

“President Trump neglected, minimized, and lied about this virus,” Biden said in a statement. “Stop lying and start acting. Use the full extent of your authorities, now, to ensure that we are producing all essential goods and delivering them.”

Mnuchin told “Fox News Sunday” the package would include loans for small businesses, direct deposits that could give an average family of four $3,000, and up to $4 trillion in liquidity for the U.S. Federal Reserve to help businesses get through the next 90 to 120 days.

A Republican-drafted bill seen by Reuters gives the U.S. Treasury authority to provide up to $500 billion in loans, loan guarantees and other investments in eligible businesses, states and municipalities during the crisis.

Of this, up to $50 billion could provide loans and loan guarantees for passenger airlines, $8 billion for cargo air carriers and $17 billion for businesses critical to national security.

The remaining $425 billion would be available for loans, loan guarantees and other investments for the Fed to provide liquidity to help the financial system lend to businesses, states and municipalities.

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Politics

Top Senate Democrat says coronavirus bill has 'many problems'

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. lawmakers clashed on Sunday over the details of a $1 trillion-plus bill to help stem the economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic, as senators prepared to cast votes on advancing the legislation.

The bill is Congress’ third effort to blunt the economic toll of a disease that has killed at least 400 in the United States and sickened more than 33,000, leading governors to order nearly a third of the nation’s population to shelter in place and putting much business activity on hold.

The measure envisages financial aid for average Americans, small businesses and critically affected industries, including airlines.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, said the bill would be at risk if they did not quickly strike a deal as a 6 p.m. (2200 GMT) procedural vote loomed, after earlier pronouncing the two parties “very close” on a deal.

But as the procedural vote approached, Democrats said the bill fell short, suggesting McConnell may not get the 60 votes he needs. In a sign of the disease’s spread, Republican Senator Rand Paul on Sunday said he had tested positive for the disease.

Senator Chuck Schumer, the chamber’s top Democrat, told reporters the proposed bill had “many, many problems” and that staffers from both parties were revising it ahead of the vote.

“It included a large corporate bailout provision with no protections for workers and virtually no oversight,” Schumer said. “It also significantly cut back on the money our hospitals, our cities, our states, our medical workers and so many others needed during this crisis.”

However, lawmakers were mindful that a failure to reach a deal on Sunday could batter already reeling financial markets on Monday.

Over the past week President Donald Trump’s administration has begun pushing for aggressive steps to stem the economic hit from the health crisis, after Trump spent several weeks downplaying the virus’ risks.

One of the Senate’s most moderate Democrats, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a state where Trump remains popular, blasted the bill, saying it was too focused on worries about Wall Street and needed to have a “balanced approach to putting healthcare first.”

Manchin said he would vote to stop that bill from advancing in the Senate unless it is improved.

Its controversial provisions included those aimed at helping corporations, rather than workers, as well as those allowing the government to delay disclosing what firms, states or municipalities had received aid for up to six months.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress, said her party planned to introduce its own bill.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the leading Democratic candidate to challenge Trump in the November U.S. presidential election, blasted the president’s handling of the crisis.

“President Trump neglected, minimized, and lied about this virus,” Biden said in a statement. “Stop lying and start acting. Use the full extent of your authorities, now, to ensure that we are producing all essential goods and delivering them.”

Speaking on “Fox News Sunday” earlier, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the package would include loans for small businesses, direct deposits that could give an average family of four $3,000, and up to $4 trillion in liquidity for the U.S. Federal Reserve to help businesses get through the next 90 to 120 days.

A Republican-drafted bill seen by Reuters gives the U.S. Treasury authority to provide up to $500 billion in loans, loan guarantees and other investments in eligible businesses, states and municipalities to help tide them over during the crisis.

Of this, up to $50 billion could provide loans and loan guarantees for passenger airlines, $8 billion for cargo air carriers and $17 billion for businesses critical to national security.

The remaining $425 billion would be available for loans, loan guarantees and other investments for the Fed to provide liquidity to help the financial system lend to businesses, states and municipalities.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, a former Democratic presidential candidate, told reporters there was “great unhappiness” among Democrats over the bill, while Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen said the bill was “weighted to big corporations.”

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Politics

U.S. Senator Toomey says Senate vote on aid package likely early next week: CNBC

(Reuters) – Republican U.S. Senator Pat Toomey told CNBC on Friday that a vote in the Senate on a coronavirus economic aid package is likely to take place early next week.

“It’s likely there will be a vote early next week”, Toomey said in an interview. “A vote on Monday, that’s the goal.”

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Politics

U.S. Senate to seek deal on $1 trillion coronavirus economic aid package

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced emergency legislation to stem the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday, and Republicans and Democrats agreed to meet Friday to seek an agreement.

The $1 trillion-plus package will include direct financial help for Americans, relief for small businesses and their employees, steps to stabilize the economy, and new support for healthcare professionals and coronavirus patients, McConnell said.

“We are ready to act as soon as agreement with our colleagues across the aisle can be reached,” he said on the Senate floor. “The Senate is not going anywhere until we take action.”

A vote could still be days away, said senior Republican lawmaker Lamar Alexander.

McConnell also said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow would be on Capitol Hill on Friday to work with lawmakers from both parties toward an agreement.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said Democrats were ready.

“We look forward to working with them to come up with a bipartisan product,” he said. But he stressed any “bailout” of industries must be aimed at helping workers, not executives or shareholders.

Senator Patrick Leahy, the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in statement the bill did not adequately fund federal, state and local efforts against coronavirus and “contains no funding for first responders, child care, schools, help for the homeless, or veterans medical care.”

The package is the third taken up by Congress since the coronavirus erupted in the United States, killing more than 150 people, shutting schools, businesses and wide swaths of American life, and sending the stock market into a tailspin.

A key plank is direct payments of up to $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for couples below a certain income threshold, along with $500 for each child in the family, a Senate Finance Committee statement said.

The maximum payments would be for those individuals earning no more than $75,000, and $150,000 for a couple, it said. Above those levels, payments would be reduced, and totally phased out at $99,000 for an individual and $198,000 for couples.

The bill also includes $208 billion for industries. This breaks down to $58 billion for airlines, and $150 billion for “other eligible entities,” a Republican statement said. All of this money would be in the form of loans and loan guarantees.

For small businesses, a key Republican constituency, the bill includes $299.4 billion for loan guarantees and loan subsidies.

Under the legislation taxpayers would be given more time to file their 2019 tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service. The traditional April 15 filing deadline would be moved to July 15, the Finance Committee said.

Healthcare provisions of the bill include expanding testing for the virus, hiring more healthcare workers and speeding the development of new vaccines and treatments. The measure would also allow students to defer payments on student loans, Alexander said in a statement.

Trump sharply changed his tone on the risks posed by the virus this week, after long downplaying them, and started talking about sending Americans $1,000 checks.

Not all Republicans were keen on the idea.

“Just a blanket cash check to everybody in America that’s making up to $75,000? I don’t know the logic of that,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby said before the bill was announced.

Leaders in the House of Representatives, meanwhile, are trying to work out new voting procedures that would allow them to reconvene without endangering members after Utah Democrat Ben McAdams and Florida Republican Mario Diaz-Balart tested positive for the virus.

Several other House lawmakers, including Republican whip Steve Scalise, were in self-quarantine after having been in contact with someone who had tested positive for the virus. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she had asked the Rules committee chairman, Representative Jim McGovern, to review how members vote in the chamber.

Congress passed an $8.3 billion measure earlier this month to combat the coronavirus outbreak and develop vaccines for the highly contagious disease.

On Wednesday, lawmakers approved and Trump signed another $105 billion-plus plan to limit the damage through free testing, paid sick leave and expanded safety-net spending.

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'No ordinary time': U.S. Senate hustles on $1 trillion coronavirus bill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Republican-led U.S. Senate was scrambling on Thursday to hammer out details of a $1 trillion-plus package to stem the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, a crisis that has sparked a rare moment of bipartisanship.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the bill eagerly sought by the Trump administration would include direct financial assistance to Americans, lending to key industries including airlines and money for more medical equipment.

“These are not ordinary policies. This is no ordinary time,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “We have to beat back this virus.”

The package is the third taken up by Congress since the coronavirus erupted in the United States, killing more than 150 people, shutting schools, businesses and wide swaths of American life, and sending the stock market into a tailspin.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said whatever package is developed must include a “massive infusion of resources” for hospitals, and there must be worker protections in any industry bailouts.

As for the prospect of direct cash payments to individual Americans, Schumer said they needed to be “bigger, more generous, and more frequent” than he had heard Republicans describe.

President Donald Trump sharply changed his tone on the risks posed by the virus this week, after long downplaying them, and has talked about sending Americans $1,000 checks.

McConnell repeated that the Senate would remain in session until it finishes the legislation and sends it to the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.

“We’re not leaving until we do our job,” he said.

House leaders, meanwhile, were trying to work out new voting procedures that would allow them to reconvene without endangering members after Utah Democrat Ben McAdams and Florida Republican Mario Diaz-Balart tested positive for the virus.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer wrote to lawmakers telling them they would not be called back into session until they needed to vote on the legislation, and that the House would adjust its voting procedures so that fewer people would be on the chamber’s floor at any one time.

Congress passed an $8.3 billion measure earlier this month to combat the coronavirus outbreak and develop vaccines for the highly contagious disease that has infected about 9,000 people in the United States and killed more than 150. The outbreak has paralyzed large sectors of the U.S. economy and led to fears of a global recession.

On Wednesday, lawmakers approved and Trump signed another $105 billion-plus plan to limit the damage through free testing, paid sick leave and expanded safety-net spending.

DIRECT PAYMENTS

For the third package lawmakers are working on now, the Trump administration has proposed a stimulus in the range of $1.3 trillion. This would include $500 billion in direct payments to Americans, possibly in the form of two rounds of checks that Trump said could amount to $1,000 each.

The strategy, as outlined in a Treasury Department memo, also would provide $300 billion for small businesses, $50 billion in loans for cash-strapped airlines and $150 billion for loan guarantees to other distressed economic sectors.

Two Republican senators, Marco Rubio and Susan Collins, said the $300 billion for small businesses would be in loans that could be converted into grants.

The Trump administration also asked Congress for an additional $45.8 billion to shore up U.S. government agencies responding to the outbreak.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, in an interview with Fox Business Network, urged Congress to act by early next week. Schumer said he had been in talks with Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, and that he would meet with McConnell later in the day.

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