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House takes up $2.2 trillion coronavirus bill, as Trump blasts holdout congressman

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Armed with hand sanitizer and discouraged from using elevators, members of the U.S. House of Representatives convened on Friday to quickly pass a sweeping $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill, though it was unclear whether they would be forced to delay.

Leadership of the Democratic-controlled chamber and top Republicans aimed to pass the largest relief measure that Congress has ever taken up in a voice vote, one of the fastest methods available, and pass it on to Republican President Donald Trump for his signature.

“Today’s vote is about saving lives and livelihoods,” said Republican Representative Kevin Brady. “Congress must act together and act aggressively now to stem this crisis.”

As debate commenced, lawmakers sat several seats apart from each other, maintaining distance as they waited for a chance to speak. The House scheduled three hours of debate, headed toward a possible vote around noon EDT (1600 GMT).

There could be opposition. Republican Representative Thomas Massie said he was uncomfortable with the idea of allowing the massive package to pass by voice vote and indicated he may force the chamber to hold a formal, recorded vote. That could delay action until Saturday.

As the House debated, Trump lashed out at Massie on Twitter, calling him a “third rate Grandstander.”

“He just wants the publicity. He can’t stop it, only delay,” the president wrote in a series of tweets. “…. throw Massie out of Republican Party!”

To minimize the threat of infection due to the coronavirus, the Capitol has laid out special procedures. Members are barred from sitting next to one another and would be called from their offices alphabetically for the vote. They will be required to use hand sanitizer before entering the chamber and encouraged to take the stairs, rather than use elevators, to better maintain social distancing.

Most of the House’s 430 current members are in their home districts because of the coronavirus outbreak and would need to go to Washington if Massie forces a recorded vote – which could put them at further risk of contagion.

Older people have proven especially vulnerable to the disease, and the average age of House members was 58 years old at the beginning of 2019, well above the average age of 38 for the U.S. population as whole.

The rescue package – which would be the largest fiscal relief measure ever passed by Congress – will rush direct payments to Americans within three weeks if the House backs it and Trump signs it into law. It passed the Republican-led Senate unanimously on Wednesday night.

The $2.2 trillion measure includes $5 00 billion to help hard-hit industries and $290 billion for payments of up to $3,000 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.

VOICE VOTE SOUGHT

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.

Pelosi said House leaders were planning to fast-track the rescue plan by passing it via a voice vote on Friday. She had said that if there were calls for a roll-call vote, lawmakers might be able to vote remotely as not all would be able to be in Washington.

It was unclear whether Massie would block the measure.

“I’m having a real hard time with this,” Massie, an outspoken fiscal conservative, said on 55KRC talk radio in Cincinnati.

Democratic Representative Dean Phillips asked Massie on Twitter to let his colleagues know if he intended to delay the bill’s passage “RIGHT NOW so we can book flights and expend about $200,000 in taxpayer money to counter your principled but terribly misguided stunt.”

The United States surpassed China and Italy on Thursday as the country with the most coronavirus cases. The number of U.S. cases passed 82,000, and the death toll reached almost 1,200.

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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After Senate vote, massive U.S. coronavirus bill moves to the House

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate’s unanimous passage of a $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill sent the unprecedented economic legislation to the House of Representatives, whose Democratic leaders hope to pass it on Friday.

The Republican-led Senate approved the massive bill – which would be the largest fiscal stimulus measure ever passed by Congress – by 96 votes to none late on Wednesday, overcoming bitter partisan negotiations and boosting its chances of passing the Democratic-majority House.

The unanimous vote, a rare departure from bitter partisanship in Washington, 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,” said Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer.

“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 a bid to stem the crushing impact on the economy of an intensifying epidemic that has killed more than 900 people in the United States and infected at least 60,000.

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

Republican President Donald 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.

Only two other nations, 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 House’s Democratic leaders announced that they would have a voice vote on Friday. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she backed the bill, and was open to passing more legislation if needed to address the crisis in future.

The House Republican leadership is recommending a “yes” vote.

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.

There had been some debate about whether all 430 House members, most of whom have been out of Washington since March 14, would have to return to consider the bill. That would have been difficult, given that at least two have tested positive for coronavirus, a handful of others are in self-quarantine and several states have issued stay-at-home orders.

There are five vacant House seats.

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McConnell, Pelosi, Mnuchin see deal soon on $2 trillion U.S. coronavirus aid

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Senior Democrats and Republicans said on Tuesday they were close to a deal on a $2 trillion coronavirus economic stimulus package, raising hopes that the divided U.S. Congress could soon act to try to limit the pandemic’s economic fallout.

“At last, I believe, we’re on the five-yard line,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, using a football analogy meaning close to scoring, as the chamber opened its session on Tuesday morning.

“We are very close,” added McConnell, the top Republican in Congress.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress, said the two sides had agreed to more oversight provisions for a proposed $500 billion fund to help hard-hit businesses, resolving a key sticking point.

“I think there is a real optimism that we could get something done in the next few hours,” Pelosi told CNBC.

Steven Mnuchin, President Donald Trump’s treasury secretary, told reporters that lawmakers hope to have a draft ready within the next two to three hours. He confirmed the changes to the industrial fund.

“There’s better oversight,” Mnuchin said.

Along with the industrial aid, the bill would send direct payments of up to $3,000 to millions of U.S. families at a cost of $500 billion. It also would provide $350 billion for small-business loans, $250 billion for expanded unemployment aid and at least $75 billion for hospitals.

Democrats have twice blocked attempts to advance the bill, saying it did not provide enough money for states and hospitals, lacked sufficient aid for unemployed Americans and did not include adequate supervision of a massive fund to aid big businesses.

Those concerns appear to have been addressed.

Related Coverage

  • McConnell says lawmakers very close to a deal on coronavirus bill

“I’m very optimistic that there will be a deal announced this morning,” Democratic Senator Chris Coons said on MSNBC.

Wall Street bounced from three-year lows on Tuesday on hopes that the Senate might be close to ending its standoff on the legislation.

Trump, seeking re-election on Nov. 3, has said he may ease a public-health clamp-down that aims to slow the spread of the virus in an effort to quickly restart the economy. Other officials warned that such an action could compound the damage.

‘ALL OF THE NONSENSE’

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

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

“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.

The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 550 people in the United States and sickened more than 43,800, shuttered thousands of businesses, thrown millions out of work and led state governors to order about 100 million people – nearly a third of the nation’s population – to stay at home.

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

That legislation would likely be irrelevant if a bipartisan deal is forged in the Senate.

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

But the coronavirus has affected their ranks, giving Democrats more leverage. Republican Senator Rand Paul has tested positive for coronavirus and four other Republicans are also unable to vote because they were exposed to Paul or others with the virus.

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Mnuchin expresses hope a deal is 'very close' on $2 trillion coronavirus aid package in U.S. Senate

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A far-reaching coronavirus economic stimulus package remained stalled in the U.S. Senate on Monday as lawmakers haggled over its provisions, but the U.S. Treasury secretary voiced confidence a deal would be reached soon.

Democrats said the $2 trillion measure contained too little money for states and hospitals and not enough restrictions on a fund to help big businesses.

A 49-46 vote fell short of the 60 votes needed to advance, as the Republican-controlled chamber remained deadlocked for a second day. Only one Democrat, Senator Doug Jones, voted with Republicans to advance the bill.

Congress has already passed two packages of legislation to blunt the economic toll of the pandemic, which has killed more than 550 people in the United States and sickened more than 43,800, thrown millions out of work and led state governors to order nearly a third of the nation’s population to stay at home.

Tempers frayed as Republicans accused Democrats of obstruction during a national emergency, but negotiators from both parties and Republican President Donald Trump’s administration continued meeting in private rooms where they have spent days trying to agree on a relief package.

“Why are the American people still waiting? Why are Democrats filibustering the bipartisan bill they helped write?” Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

Democrats insisted it needed to include more oversight provisions for a $500 billion fund to help large businesses.

Trump was asked at a White House briefing who would provide oversight of how the funds are used, and responded that he would. “I’ll be the oversight,” he told reporters.

Democrats said they thought an agreement was close.

“Take a deep breath. We’re gonna pass this bill,” Senator Dick Durbin, the chamber’s No 2 Democrat, said.

‘VERY CLOSE’

But talks continued.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the Trump administration’s point person on coronavirus legislation, shuttled in and out of Senate leaders’ offices.

“I think we’re very close,” Mnuchin told reporters. “We’re trying to finish it up tonight.”

Trump’s administration launched a major push last week for action to blunt the economic impact – and steep stock market decline – from the pandemic, after Trump himself spent several weeks dismissing the virus’ risks.

The Senate measure includes financial aid for ordinary Americans, small businesses and critically affected industries, such as airlines.

Republicans said Democrats were seeking to add unrelated provisions, such as expanded tax credits for wind and solar power and increased leverage for labor unions.

Democrats said Republicans were trying to add provisions that would exclude nonprofit groups from receiving small-business aid, and extend a sexual abstinence-education program that is due to expire in May.

Democratic House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi released her own version, which would add billions of dollars to help states conduct elections by mail.

Republicans normally hold a slim 53-47 majority in the chamber, short of the 60 votes they need to advance most legislation. But the coronavirus has trimmed their ranks, making it even harder to advance legislation without significant support from Democrats.

Republican Senator Rand Paul said on Sunday he tested positive for the virus. But since he kept circulating on Capitol Hill after getting tested, including an alleged visit to the Senate gym, several other Republicans decided to self-quarantine as a precautionary measure.

Paul said he would not even know he had contracted the disease if he had not ignored recommendations and sought testing. “The broader the testing and the less finger-pointing we have, the better,” he said in a statement.

Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar said her husband, John Bessler, contracted pneumonia and coughed up blood after contracting the disease. She said she was not at risk because she had not seen him in person for two weeks.

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'Dilly-dallying around': Coronavirus relief again falls short in U.S. Senate vote

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A far-reaching coronavirus economic stimulus package failed to advance in the U.S. Senate on Monday as Democrats said it contained too little money for hospitals and not enough restrictions on a fund to help big businesses.

The 49-46 vote left the sweeping measure short of the 60 votes needed to advance, as the chamber remained deadlocked for a second day.

Tempers frayed as Republicans accused Democrats of obstruction during a national emergency.

“The country is burning and your side wants to play political games,” said Republican Senator John Thune, who angrily accused Democrats of “dilly-dallying around.”

Democrats said they were close to an agreement with Republicans and predicted a modified version would win passage soon.

“Take a deep breath. We’re gonna pass this bill,” Democratic Senator Dick Durbin said.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who estimated the bill would cost $2 trillion, said before the vote that the two sides were making progress.

“We knocked off a bunch of things on the list already and we’re closing in on issues,” Mnuchin told reporters after exiting Schumer’s office. He did not give specific.

U.S. stocks fell on Monday as the coronavirus forced more states into lockdown, eclipsing optimism from an unprecedented round of policy easing by the Federal Reserve.

The bill represents a third effort by Congress to blunt the economic toll of the pandemic that has killed at least 428 people in the United States and sickened more than 34,000, leading state governors to order nearly a third of the nation’s population to stay at home and putting much business activity on hold.

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

Republicans said Democrats were seeking to add unrelated provisions, such as expanded tax credits for wind and solar power and increased leverage for labor unions.

Democrats said Republicans were also trying to add provisions that would exclude nonprofit groups from receiving small-business aid, and extend a sexual abstinence-education program that is due to expire in May.

The speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, released her own version, which would add billions of dollars to help states conduct elections by mail.

Republicans normally hold a slim 53-47 majority in the chamber, short of the 60 votes they need to advance most legislation.

But the coronavirus threat has affected their ranks. Republican Senator Rand Paul said he tested positive for the virus on Sunday, and several others have self-quarantined as a precautionary measure. Republicans only mustered 47 votes in Sunday’s procedural vote.

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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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Top Senate Republican sees Monday coronavirus vote, Pelosi plans own bill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. lawmakers sent mixed signals on Sunday about whether they are near a deal on legislation to try to limit the economic toll of the coronavirus, with a Republican predicting a vote on Monday and a top Democrat saying she would introduce her own bill.

“We’re working toward bringing this together. I think it’s safe to say we’re very close,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told a news conference after an hour of talks with top lawmakers, saying he expected a Senate vote on Monday.

“We will be introducing our own bill,” Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said earlier as she left the meeting, while adding negotiators were still talking and that she hoped for a bipartisan agreement.

The bill, Congress’s third effort to blunt the economic hit, envisages financial aid for average Americans, small businesses and critically affected industries including airlines.

Among the areas likely to generate controversy are those aimed at helping corporations, rather than workers, weather the crisis, as well as provisions on whether to allow companies to buy back their own stock.

The virus has killed at least 380 and sickened more than 25,000 across the United States, leading governors and mayors to shut schools, businesses and many aspects of American life.

Over the past week President Donald Trump’s administration has been pushing for aggressive steps to stem the economic hit, after Trump spent several weeks downplaying the virus’ risks. Prominent Democrats on Sunday pushed back on the idea of propping up corporate America with the bill.

Earlier, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin predicted the White House and Congress would reach an agreement and Republican Senator Pat Toomey suggested there would be little opposition.

“I think it’ll be very hard to vote against this,” Toomey told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

During his news conference, McConnell suggested the differences were just part of the usual jockeying in Congress.

“It’s still some elbowing and maneuvering for room as you can imagine, but this is a pretty solidly bi-partisan proposal agreed to by a lot of rank and file Democrats who were involved in drafting it,” McConnell told reporters. “At some point here, we’ll have to stop and that’ll be the bill we vote on and in my opinion that’ll be tomorrow.”

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Factbox: Coronavirus hits U.S. Congress, with first cases, quarantines

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The first two members of the U.S. Congress have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and at least 22 others have said they are self-quarantining, many because of exposure to the two congressmen, even as lawmakers scramble to pass more legislation to help cope with the pandemic.

Here is a look at some of the lawmakers affected:

WHO HAS THE VIRUS?

Representative Mario Diaz-Balart

The Florida Republican said on Wednesday that he tested positive after developing symptoms on Saturday. That was less than 24 hours after he and more than 400 other members of the House of Representatives crowded into the chamber to pass a sweeping coronavirus aid package.

Representative Ben McAdams

The Utah Democrat said on Wednesday that he had the virus, also having developed symptoms on Saturday.

WHO IS SELF-QUARANTINED?

At least 18 House members have self-quarantined, some after prolonged exposure to Diaz-Balart or McAdams, and others from contacts with people from outside the U.S. government. Not all are still in isolation.

Those who have self-quarantined include Representative Steve Scalise, the No. 3 House Republican, who had had a long meeting with Diaz-Balart.

Republican Mark Meadows, President Donald Trump’s incoming chief of staff, said he would quarantine himself after contact with an infected person at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), but he has since appeared at the White House with Trump.

Other House members who have isolated themselves include Representatives Don Beyer, Anthony Brindisi, Julia Brownley, Tom Cole, Doug Collins, Jason Crow, Sharice Davids, Drew Ferguson, Matt Gaetz, Paul Gosar, Kendra Horn, Gwen Moore, Stephanie Murphy, Ben Ray Lujan, David Price and Ann Wagner.

SENATORS

At least four senators have self-quarantined, after being exposed to constituents or officials who tested positive.

Senator Ted Cruz

The Texas Republican said on Tuesday he was no longer self-quarantining, after isolating himself after being exposed twice, once at the CPAC conference and then because he had shaken hands with a Spanish politician who tested positive.

Senator Cory Gardner

The Colorado Republican was exposed to a visitor to his office who later tested positive.

Senator Lindsey Graham

The South Carolina Republican, a close Trump ally, quarantined himself after being around an official who had tested positive. He later said he tested negative.

Senator Rick Scott

The Florida Republican announced he was self-quarantining after being at the president’s Florida golf resort with a Brazilian official who later tested positive.

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U.S. Senate leader introduces emergency coronavirus bill, sets bipartisan talks

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.

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.

(Graphic: Tracking the spread of the global coronavirus link: here)

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Senate $1 trillion coronavirus bill coming Thursday – senior Republican

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 is expected to introduce the stimulus bill on Thursday, but a vote appears to be days away, a senior Republican lawmaker said.

“We’ll have a bill ready. Senator McConnell will introduce it today. I hope we can work with our Democratic counterparts over the next couple of days to come to a conclusion and pass it,” Republican Senator Lamar Alexander told reporters.

McConnell said earlier that the bill eagerly sought by President Donald Trump’s 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.

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.

Senator Kevin Cramer, a Trump ally, said Republicans were weighing maximum payments of $1,200 to people making $75,000 a year or less.

Some other Republicans were not so 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.

Cramer also said the economic stimulus package was likely to rely on loans, not grants, to the airline industry.

McConnell said the Senate would remain in session until it finishes the legislation and sends it to the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives. Once both houses pass the bill, it would then pass to Trump to be signed into law.

House leaders, 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 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.

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.

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, $300 billion for small businesses, $50 billion in loans for cash-strapped airlines, and $150 billion for loan guarantees to other distressed economic sectors.

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