WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A long-range coronavirus economic stimulus package did not advance in the U.S. Senate on Monday, when Democrats said it contained very little money for hospitals and sufficient restrictions on a fund to help large companies.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin walks into a meeting with Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) (not pictured), during negotiations on a coronavirus disease relief package (COVID- 19) at Capitol Hill in Washington, USA, on March 23, 2020. REUTERS / Joshua Roberts
The vote from 49 to 46 left the large measure below the 60 votes needed to advance, as the chamber remained at a standstill for a second day.
Moods erode when Republicans accused Democrats of obstruction during a national emergency.
"The country is on fire and your side wants to play political games," said Republican Senator John Thune, who angrily accused Democrats of "playing lightly".
Democrats said they were close to an agreement with Republicans and predicted that a modified version would gain approval soon.
"Take a deep breath. We are going to pass this bill," said Democratic Senator Dick Durbin.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who estimated the project would cost $ 2 trillion, said before the vote that the two sides were making progress.
"We have already added a lot of things to the list and we are closing matters," Mnuchin told reporters after leaving Schumer's office. He did not specify.
US stocks fell on Monday when the coronavirus forced more states to block, eclipsing the optimism of an unprecedented round of policy easing by the Federal Reserve.
The bill represents a third Congressional effort to mitigate the economic number of the pandemic that killed at least 428 people in the United States and made more than 34,000 sick, prompting governors to order almost a third of the nation's population to stay at home and put in a lot of activity on hold.
The measure includes financial aid for ordinary Americans, small businesses and affected industries, including airlines.
Republicans said Democrats were trying to add unrelated provisions, such as expanded tax credits for wind and solar energy and increased leverage for unions.
Democrats said Republicans are also trying to add provisions that exclude nonprofit groups from receiving help for small businesses and extend an education program on sexual abstinence that is due to expire in May.
Chamber of Deputies President Nancy Pelosi launched her own version, which would add billions of dollars to help states conduct elections by post.
Republicans typically hold a small majority of 53 to 47 in the House, with the exception of the 60 votes needed to advance most legislation.
But the coronavirus threat affected its ranks. Republican Sen. Rand Paul said he tested positive for the virus on Sunday, and several others have quarantined themselves as a precautionary measure. Republicans won just 47 votes in Sunday's procedural vote.
Reporting by David Morgan and Andy Sullivan; Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell; Written by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Scott Malone, Will Dunham and Jonathan Oatis
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