Republicans Close to Conceding to Some Democratic Demands on Coronavirus Aid Package

Andrew Cummings
March 25, 2020

Opening the Senate on Tuesday, McConnell combined optimism about the chances for a deal with frustration at the delays - and a sober view of the crisis at hand. He promised that the Senate will approve the legislation later on Wednesday.

The package would give direct payments of up to $3,000 to most US families, and provide some $367 billion to a program for small-business loans to help them keep making payroll as workers are forced to stay home due to "stay at home" orders in several states across the country.

It followed days of vicious partisan infighting over what to include, in what ultimately may be the largest emergency rescue package lawmakers have ever passed.

Top White House aide Eric Ueland announced the agreement in a Capitol hallway shortly after midnight, capping days of often intense haggling and mounting pressure.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we are done".

U.S. lawmakers worked deep into Tuesday night trying to seal the deal that buttresses the teetering economy by giving roughly $2 trillion to hospitals, businesses and ordinary Americans buckling under the strain of the coronavirus pandemic. The deal also provides $1,200 to most American adults, plus $500 per child.

"At this point, of the few outstanding issues, I don't see any that can't be overcome in the next few hours", top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer told the chamber moments after meeting Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

It followed days of pressure, unusual partisanship in a crisis, and intense haggling over the fine print, negotiators were nearly done with the $2 trillion bill.

The bill's passage came as Trump grew impatient with his administration's decision to impose strict restrictions on all aspects of American public life as a way to stop the spread of the virus, a move recommended by United States health officials that has brought the economy grinding close to a halt.

Trump's stance in the face of the virus once again shifted beginning Sunday night and continuing at a Monday news conference. Democrats twice blocked efforts to move forward with a vote on the legislation, arguing the proposal did not provide strong enough protections for workers, families and healthcare providers nor did it impose strict enough restrictions on businesses that receive federal bailout money.

Graham, a South Carolina Republican, furiously ripped his Democratic opponents in a speech from the floor, saying: 'This bill is $2 trillion.

The bill also contains provisions to eliminate debt held by the U.S. Postal Service, require same-day voter registration, pay off $10,000 in student debt per person, and force federal agencies to explain to Congress how they are increasing their usage of "minority banks".

'I think I understand the give-and-take of life and negotiations, ' Graham said. But given the fearsome nature of the coronavirus crisis, enactment of such a package - even with its $2 trillion price tag - is likely to be backed by almost all of the Republican senators as a means of salvaging both the economy and the stock market.

"We're in the red zone and hopefully we can get it over the finish line", the powerful California Democrat told CNN.

Other reports by iNewsToday