Categories
World News

U.S. Senate passes $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly 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 unanimous 96-0 vote, which sent the massive stimulus package to the House of Representatives, which could vote sometime this week.

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 massive bill – which would be the largest economic stimulus measure 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 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.

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

Source: Read Full Article

Categories
World News

Unprecedented $2 trillion U.S. coronavirus stimulus bill poised for Senate vote

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. senators will vote on Wednesday on a $2 trillion bipartisan package of legislation to alleviate the devastating economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, hoping it will become law quickly.

Top aides to Republican President Donald Trump and senior Senate Republicans and Democrats said they had agreed on the unprecedented stimulus bill in the early hours of Wednesday after five days of marathon talks.

“We’re going to pass this legislation later today,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said after the deal was announced early on Wednesday.

It was unclear how quickly Congress could get the package to Trump to sign into law.

The Senate was due to convene at 12 p.m. EDT (1600 GMT), with a vote expected sometime in the afternoon. The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives is not expected to act before Thursday.

Trump supports the measure, the White House said.

“We’re really looking forward to this vote today so that he can sign it into law,” White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said on Fox News.

The massive bill 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.

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

It would be the largest rescue package ever approved by Congress and the third such effort to be passed this month. The money at stake amounts to nearly half of the $4.7 trillion the U.S. government spends annually.

“We have greatly strengthened the bill and we’re proud of what we’ve done,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said on CNN.

The package aims to flood the U.S. economy with cash in a bid to stem the impact of a pandemic that has killed more than 730 people in the United States and infected more than 53,650.

Interactive graphic tracking the spread of the coronavirus: here

The governors of at least 18 states, including hard-hit New York, have issued stay-at-home directives affecting about half the U.S. population. The sweeping orders are aimed at slowing the pathogen’s spread, but have upended daily life as schools and businesses shutter indefinitely.

U.S. stocks were mixed in choppy trading after a strong rebound on Tuesday and a rise in early trading on Wednesday, as optimism about the coronavirus package waned, with investors still concerned about the lasting economic hit from the pandemic.[nL4N2BI46F7]

The bill is expected to pass the Republican-led Senate easily, more so because Republican Senator Rand Paul, the only senator to vote against an earlier round of emergency virus funding, may be unable to vote after testing positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

It also must pass the Democratic-led House of Representatives. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who proposed a more far-reaching rescue package, did not say whether she would support the Senate version.

“We’ll see the bill and see how the Senate votes. So there’s no decision about timing until we see the bill,” she told reporters.

House members left Washington 10 days ago, but the lower chamber could quickly pass the bill without requiring them to return if all members agree to do so.

If just one of the chamber’s 430 current members objects, that could require them to return to Washington to vote in person at a time when several members are self-quarantining. Any changes made by the House would also require Senate approval – leading to further delays.

Trump said on Tuesday he wanted Americans to end “social distancing” restrictions intended to slow the spread of the virus and return to work by Easter, April 12.

That concerned health officials, who fear ending the lockdown too soon could bring more virus-related deaths.

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

Source: Read Full Article

Categories
Politics

U.S. senators look to quickly pass massive coronavirus bill, head home

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. senators will vote on Wednesday on a $2-trillion bipartisan package of legislation to alleviate the devastating economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, hoping it will become law quickly so they can get out of Washington.

Top aides to President Donald Trump and senior Senate Republicans and Democrats announced they had agreed on the unprecedented stimulus bill in the early hours of Wednesday, after five days of marathon talks.

“We’re going to pass this legislation later today,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

The massive bill is expected to include a $500 billion fund to help hard-hit industries and a comparable amount for direct payments of up to $3,000 to millions of U.S. families.

It will also include $350 billion for small-business loans, $250 billion for expanded unemployment aid and $150 billion for various healthcare initiatives, including $100 billion for hospitals and related health systems.

It aims to flood the U.S. economy with cash in a bid to stem the 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.

“This is not a moment of celebration, but one of necessity,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said.

The bill is expected to pass the Senate easily, more so because Senator Rand Paul, a Republican who was the only senator to vote against an earlier round of emergency virus funding, may be unable to vote after testing positive for the disease.

If passed, the unprecedented rescue package, which Schumer called the largest in U.S. history – would be the third approved by Congress this month to counter the impact of the crisis.

To become law, the measure must pass the Republican-led Senate and Democratic-led House of Representatives. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was consulted during negotiations on the bipartisan Senate deal, struck after Democrats twice blocked a measure written by Republicans.

Aides to Pelosi did not immediately respond to a request for comment on her view of the bill.

It also must be signed by Republican President Donald Trump, who said on Tuesday he wanted Americans to end “social distancing” restrictions intended to slow the spread of the virus and return to work by Easter, April 12.

That worried health officials, who fear ending the lockdown too soon could bring more virus-related deaths.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the administration point man for talks, told reporters Trump “absolutely” would sign the bipartisan stimulus agreement if it passed Congress.

Talks on the deal kept the Senate in Washington as the virus’ impact on the United States increased dramatically. Members of the House of Representatives left Washington 10 days ago.

While stuck in Washington, many senators told aides to work from home to lower the risk of contagion, Paul announced his positive test and a handful of other lawmakers self-quarantined, because they had been exposed to Paul or others with the illness.

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

Source: Read Full Article

Categories
Politics

Factbox: U.S. lawmakers who tested positive for the coronavirus

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Three members of the U.S. Congress have tested positive for the coronavirus, and more than two dozen others have said they are self-quarantining, 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?

Senator Rand Paul

The Kentucky Republican said on Sunday that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and was in quarantine. He said he was asymptomatic and feeling fine and was tested out of an abundance of caution. He had been in the Senate and using the gym there in the days before he received his positive result.

Representative Mario Diaz-Balart

The Florida Republican said on March 18 that he tested positive after developing symptoms on March 14. 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 March 18 that he had the virus, also having developed symptoms on March 14. In a statement on Tuesday, the 45-year-old said he was hospitalized and doctors were monitoring his occasional need for oxygen.

McAdams urged lawmakers to stop partisan games and take swift action to support communities grappling with the public health emergency. “At the advice of my doctors, I am still in the hospital. My experience further shows me the seriousness of this issue,” he said on Twitter.

WHO IS SELF-QUARANTINED?

Republican Senators Mitt Romney and Mike Lee said on Sunday they would self-quarantine after having spent time with Paul.

Romney said on Tuesday that he had tested negative for the virus but would stay in quarantine.

At least four other senators previously self-quarantined. They are Republicans Cory Gardner, Lindsey Graham, Rick Scott and Ted Cruz. Cruz and Graham have returned to public life.

Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar said on Monday her husband, 52-year-old John Bessler, had the virus and was in the hospital, but she was not at risk because she had not seen him for two weeks. That is longer than the quarantine period.

At least 23 House members have self-quarantined, some after exposure to Diaz-Balart or McAdams, and others after contacts with their constituents or staff members who later tested positive. Not all are still in isolation.

They include: Republicans Steve Scalise, Mark Meadows, Tom Cole, Doug Collins, Drew Ferguson, Matt Gaetz, Paul Gosar and Ann Wagner along with Democrats Don Beyer, Anthony Brindisi, Julia Brownley, Jason Crow, Joe Cunningham, Sharice Davids, Kendra Horn, Andy Kim, Gwen Moore, Stephanie Murphy, Ben Ray Lujan, David Price, Kathleen Rice, David Schweikert and John Yarmuth.

Source: Read Full Article

Categories
Politics

'Very close:' $2 trillion coronavirus aid deal takes shape in U.S. Congress

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Senior Democrats and Republicans in the divided U.S. Congress said on Tuesday they were close to a deal on a $2 trillion stimulus package to limit the coronavirus pandemic’s economic toll, but it was unclear when they would be ready to vote on a bill.

“We are very close,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, as the chamber opened its session on Tuesday morning.

The Republican-led chamber’s top Democrat, Chuck Schumer, said on the Senate floor that “of the few outstanding issues I don’t see any that can’t be overcome within the next few hours.”

The $2 trillion package includes a proposed $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 state governors to order about 100 million people – nearly a third of the nation’s population – to stay at home.

A few issues, such as assistance to states, remained unresolved as of early afternoon, according to a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity. It was unclear when the Senate would be able to vote on the deal.

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

Related Coverage

  • Factbox: What's in the nearly $2 trillion U.S. Senate coronavirus stimulus?

The latest version would increase unemployment benefits by up to $600 per week, ensuring that many who lose their jobs would not see a drop in income, according to a Democratic aide. Jobless benefits currently pay workers a fraction of their salaries.

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

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin 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.

Lawmakers were also nearing 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 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.

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

President Donald Trump, seeking re-election on Nov. 3, has said he may try to restart the economy more quickly by easing a public-health clampdown that aims to slow the spread of the virus. 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 passed 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. This would lead to further delays and possibly require that chamber to return to Washington.

“We have some additions that we think would be very helpful to America’s workers,” she said.

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.

“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.

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. Multiple states postponed their presidential nominating primaries due to the pandemic.

Pelosi’s 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 the coronavirus and four other Republicans are also unable to vote because they were exposed to Paul or others with the virus.

Source: Read Full Article

Categories
Politics

'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.

Source: Read Full Article

Categories
Politics

U.S. Senate looks to strike deal on massive coronavirus relief package

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Senate struggled to reach agreement on a far-reaching coronavirus stimulus package on Monday after failing to reach a deal in talks that stretched through the weekend.

Republicans accused Democrats of obstructing government assistance in the middle of a national emergency after the bill stalled on Sunday. Democrats said the package was overly weighted toward corporate interests at the expense of healthcare workers, hospitals and state and local governments.

But Trump administration officials said they were close to an agreement on the package, which they said carried a $2 trillion price tag.

“We knocked off a bunch of things on the list already and we’re closing in on issues,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters on Monday morning after exiting the office of Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer. He did not give specifics.

The Republican-led Senate is scheduled to reconvene at noon (1600 GMT).

U.S. stocks opened lower on Monday as a brief spurt of optimism from an aggressive credit boost by the Federal Reserve was overshadowed by the still rapidly spreading coronavirus pandemic.

Both sides remained confident a deal could still be reached swiftly, and Republican President Donald Trump warned that a rattled American public would take a dim view of an impasse.

“The only reason a deal couldn’t get done is pure politics,” Trump said on Sunday.

The bill is Congress’ third effort to blunt the economic toll of a disease 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 regular Americans, small businesses and critically affected industries, including airlines.

Before a Senate procedural vote on Sunday, Senate Democratic Leader 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.

Negotiations between the two sides, along with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, went deep into night on Sunday. 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.

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, which will likely keep them off the floor for further votes.

Source: Read Full Article

Categories
Politics

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

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced emergency legislation on Thursday to stem the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, and Republicans and Democrats agreed to meet on 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 Republican Senator 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.

In a joint statement, Schumer and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the Republican bill “is not at all pro-worker and instead puts corporations way ahead of workers.”

Senator Patrick Leahy, the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a statement the bill did not adequately fund federal, state and local efforts against the 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, infecting 12,259 people and killing 200, shutting schools, businesses and wide swaths of American life, and sending the stock market into a tailspin.

A key plank is a direct payment 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.

LOANS FOR AIRLINES

The bill also includes $208 billion for industries. That 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,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby said before the bill was announced.

Leaders in the Democratic-controlled House 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. 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 a $105 billion-plus plan to limit the damage through free testing, paid sick leave and expanded safety-net spending.

Source: Read Full Article

Categories
Politics

Senate scrambles to nail down $1 trillion-plus coronavirus plan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. lawmakers were rushing on Thursday to forge a massive economic stimulus package to counter the destructive impact of the coronavirus outbreak, with the Senate’s Republican leader vowing not to let the chamber adjourn until it was done.

Although a few lawmakers expressed doubts about the yawning amounts under discussion, with one Republican senator warning against “shoveling money out of a helicopter,” Republican leaders in the Senate said they hoped to agree on a proposal with the Trump administration on Thursday. They then planned to start talks with Democrats, who are the minority in the chamber.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, in an interview with Fox Business Network, on Thursday urged Congress to pass by early next week a $1 trillion-plus economic relief measure to help individuals and businesses devastated by the coronavirus.

Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he had been in talks with Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, and that he would meet with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell later in the day to hammer out a package.

“We need a Marshall Plan for all of the healthcare industry, particularly our hospitals,” Schumer told MSNBC. “We will be talking about the dire situation in the hospitals in a few weeks if we don’t act now.” He said unemployment insurance was also paramount.

McConnell said on Wednesday the Senate would remain in session until it finishes the legislation and sends it to the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives. “We are moving rapidly because the situation demands it.”

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.[nL1N2BC0NI]

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.

It was unclear how the spread of the virus could impact U.S. lawmakers’ ability to work. Representative Ben McAdams, a Democrat from Utah, and Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, a Republican from Florida, have tested positive for the virus, and Representative Tom Cole, a Republican from Oklahoma, said he was self-quarantining after contact with Diaz-Balart.

McAdams, speaking on NBC’s “Today” program, suggested the House should plan for work contingencies amid the ongoing national emergency.

“Remote voting is not currently allowed under House rules. I think we need to consider changing that under certain provisions,” McAdams said.

DIRECT PAYMENTS

The new stimulus plan the Trump administration has proposed could 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 to help keep staff employed and meet expenses such as utility costs and lease payments.

“If we do not act to help the small-business sector, I predict that we will see massive layoffs and an inordinate number of small businesses shutting their doors,” Collins said.

But senators in both parties expressed concern about rushing into “bailouts” of distressed industries. Senator Ben Sasse, the Republican who warned about shoveling money out of a helicopter, said there was a dangerous “herd mentality” developing in Washington. He was one of eight Republicans who voted against the $105 billion-plus aid bill on Wednesday.

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

Source: Read Full Article

Categories
Politics

Coronavirus forces U.S. lawmakers to overcome divide

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – With coronavirus cases reported in all 50 U.S. states, lawmakers in Washington are working to limit the economic damage from the epidemic. To do so, they must overcome another problem – partisan gridlock.

The Republican-controlled Senate is due to take up a multi-billion dollar aid package on Wednesday that bolsters safety-net programs and provides free testing for the respiratory disease.

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed the package by an overwhelming bipartisan margin on Saturday.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is urging his colleagues to approve it quickly, despite their qualms.

“Gag and vote for it,” he said at a news conference on Tuesday.

That may be difficult for some Senate Republicans, who worry that its sick-leave provisions could heap costs on small businesses. Others have objected that it does not cover those who work at corporations that employ more than 500 people.

“I’m pretty concerned with the House bill making a bad situation worse in our economy,” Republican Senator James Lankford said on Tuesday.

Still, the Senate is expected to approve the bill this week and immediately turn to a third effort, after U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin privately warned that unemployment could hit 20% if Congress does not act.

The third package could include popular items, like $1,000 checks to Americans, and less popular items, such as an expensive bailout for airlines that risk falling into bankruptcy.

It was unclear when that would pass or how soon Americans would get the money, but Trump took to Twitter early Wednesday morning to push the effort.

“For the people that are now out of work because of the important and necessary containment policies, for instance the shutting down of hotels, bars and restaurants, money will soon be coming to you,” Trump wrote.

Mindful of the backlash to the 2008 bank rescue package, Republicans working on the third effort say it does not amount to a bailout of the industry.

“Chairman Shelby opposes bailouts,” said Blair Taylor, a spokeswoman for Republican Senator Richard Shelby, who is working on the effort.

Disputes over taxes and spending have repeatedly brought Washington to a standstill over the past decade, but lawmakers so far have overcome their partisan divisions to confront the crisis.

Congress quickly approved an initial $8.3 billion package to boost the medical response to the pandemic, and the House-passed bill enjoyed broad support from both Republicans and Democrats.

Sick-leave and family-leave provisions alone in the House-passed legislation would cost $105 billion, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

The third effort could dwarf that figure. Mnuchin said it could cost $1.3 trillion – surpassing the $838 billion Recovery Act of 2009, which passed Congress with only a handful of Republican votes.

Conservatives like Republican Senator Tom Cotton are calling for the third package to include expanded safety-net benefits.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, meanwhile, has proposed spending $750 billion on further safety-net enhancements, such as emergency child care for health workers, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Tuesday that the third package should include benefits for self-employed workers.

Lawmakers from both parties also have lined up against Trump’s proposed payroll tax cut on the grounds that it would take too long to make a difference and would not help those who lose their jobs.

Source: Read Full Article