U.S. Senate awaits House coronavirus bill, Schumer proposes $750 billion more in emergency spending
By Susan Cornwell and David Morgan WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Even as the U.S. Senate grappled over what to do with a wide-ranging coronavirus economic stimulus bill passed by the House of Representatives, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer on Monday urged an additional $750 billion (£611.80 billion) to address the crisis. 'We will need big, bold, urgent federal action to deal with this crisis,' Schumer said in a statement outlining a plan to fund a range of emergency operations, including boosting hospital capacity, expanding jobless benefits, delivering help to small businesses and funding childcare for healthcare workers
By Susan Cornwell and David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Even as the U.S. Senate grappled over what to do with a wide-ranging coronavirus economic stimulus bill passed by the House of Representatives, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer on Monday urged an additional $750 billion (£611.80 billion) to address the crisis.
"We will need big, bold, urgent federal action to deal with this crisis," Schumer said in a statement outlining a plan to fund a range of emergency operations, including boosting hospital capacity, expanding jobless benefits, delivering help to small businesses and funding childcare for healthcare workers.
The proposal - which approaches the magnitude of the response to the 2008 financial crisis - comes as lawmakers argued over the fine points of the more modest multibillion-dollar coronavirus relief bill already passed by the Democratic-controlled House.
"The Senate is committed to meeting these uncertain times with bold and bipartisan solutions," Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a speech on the chamber floor, noting that the House had not yet forwarded its bill for the Senate to vote on.
It was unclear whether the 53 Republicans in the 100-seat Senate would coalesce around that wide-ranging measure. The 45 Democratic and two independent senators are seen as likely to vote for the bill.
It would require paid sick leave for some workers, expanded unemployment compensation and nearly $1 billion in additional money to help feed children, homebound senior citizens and others, and has White House backing.
Without the permission of all 100 senators to move quickly, McConnell likely would have to gather a supermajority of at least 60 votes for the House bill to clear procedural hurdles.
His other option would be to amend the House bill to shore up Republican backing. But doing so would require final approval by the House when it returns from a recess next week.
Congress has already passed and Republican President Donald Trump has signed an $8.3 billion bill aimed at helping develop a coronavirus vaccine, ensure better supplies of medical equipment and help state and local governments deal with the burgeoning crisis.
Even as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States rapidly rose to more than 3,800 and the number of deaths to more than 70, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally, some Republican senators were challenging the House bill.
"The president and states already have adequate authority and funding to address the current situation," Senate Homeland Security and Government Operations Chairman Ron Johnson said in a statement on Saturday, saying the House-passed bill would force small businesses "to pay wages they cannot afford."
Republican Senator Mitt Romney, in a statement on Monday, called for swift approval of the House bill and called for additional legislation, including sending $1,000 to each adult American, to help "meet their short-term obligations and increase spending in the economy."
An aide to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the House is now scheduled to return from a recess on March 24, a day later than originally planned.
Members also were advised that leaders are working on plans to limit the number of lawmakers allowed on the floor at any one time to help control the spread of the coronavirus.
(Reporting by David Morgan, Susan Cornwell and Richard Cowan; writing by Richard Cowan; editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)
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