U.S. Senate moves toward uncertain vote on massive coronavirus relief package

By David Morgan and Andy Sullivan WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Monday moved toward another vote on a far-reaching coronavirus economic stimulus package on Monday, though Republicans and Democrats said they still had not resolved their differences that had stalled the package over the weekend. Both sides said they were close to an agreement on the massive bill, which Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said carried a $2 trillion price tag.

Reuters March 24, 2020 00:15:16 IST
U.S. Senate moves toward uncertain vote on massive coronavirus relief package

coronavirus relief package" src="https://images.firstpost.com/wp-content/uploads/reuters/03-2020/24/2020-03-23T124707Z_1_LYNXMPEG2M16Y_RTROPTP_2_HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS-USA-CONGRESS.jpg" alt="US Senate moves toward uncertain vote on massive coronavirus relief package" width="300" height="225" />

By David Morgan and Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Monday moved toward another vote on a far-reaching coronavirus economic stimulus package on Monday, though Republicans and Democrats said they still had not resolved their differences that had stalled the package over the weekend.

Both sides said they were close to an agreement on the massive bill, which Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said carried a $2 trillion price tag. But they remained at odds over provisions to help businesses, as well as the amount of money to provide to hospitals and state and local governments.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell accused Democrats of trying to take advantage of the crisis to advance their political agenda with unrelated provisions. McConnell said the Senate, controlled by President Donald Trump's fellow Republicans, would hold another procedural vote on the package after it fell short on Sunday.

"This is not a juicy political opportunity. This is a national emergency," McConnell said as the Senate opened its session.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said the package needed more guardrails to avoid misuse of the $500 billion earmarked to help struggling industries.

"Our goal is to reach a deal today and we're hopeful, even confident that we will meet that goal," Schumer said. He also warned that he viewed an upcoming procedural vote to advance the package as "irrelevant" before negotiations were done.

Mnuchin said the two sides made progress on Monday morning.

"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 specifics.

U.S. stocks fell on Monday as the coronavirus forced more U.S. 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.

Before a Senate procedural vote on Sunday, Schumer said more money was needed for community health centers, nursing homes, masks, ventilators, personal protective equipment and aid to state and local governments.

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.

The speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, said Democrats in that chamber would begin crafting an alternative bill should the Senate not reach an agreement.

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 a procedural vote on Sunday.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Writing by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Scott Malone, Will Dunham and Jonathan Oatis)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

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