WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The US Treasury Secretary and Senate Democratic leader expressed confidence on Monday that a deal will soon be reached on a long-range coronavirus economic stimulus package that had been paralyzed in the U.S. Senate. while legislators argued about it.
Negotiators made great strides on the $ 2 trillion bipartisan measure on Monday, but without reaching a final pact as they hoped, said Treasury secretaries Steven Mnuchin and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer.
"There are still some open questions," said Mnuchin, just before midnight. "I think we have a lot of hope that it can end tomorrow."
Schumer said he believed the Senate could vote as early as Tuesday, adding: "It's a huge $ 2 trillion bill with many different moving parts."
They gave no details of the remaining hurdles, but Democrats said the stimulus plan originally proposed by Republicans contained very little money for states and hospitals and there were not enough restrictions on a fund to help big companies.
Two attempts to advance a Republican measure in the Senate have failed in the past two days, despite the majority of the party.
In the second attempt, on Monday, the 49-46 vote fell short of the 60 needed to move forward, as only one Democrat voted for Republicans.
Congress has already passed two packages of legislation to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic, which killed more than 550 people in the United States and sickened more than 43,800, took millions of people out of work and led governors to order nearly a third of the country's population to stay at home.
Moods wore off when Republicans accused Democrats of obstruction during a national emergency, even as talks continued for days.
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
TRUMP CALL OUT
Republican President Donald Trump attacked Twitter the moment Mnuchin and Schumer spoke, accusing Democratic Chamber of Deputies President Nancy Pelosi of taking an "extended vacation" and making demands that she would never agree to.
"Do Democrats want the virus to win?" Trump said in the Twitter post. "They are asking for things that have nothing to do with our great workers or companies."
Democrats insist that any deal should include more oversight provisions for a $ 500 billion fund for large companies, to avoid giving a blank check to corporate leaders. Asked about this, Trump replied to reporters: "I will be the supervisor".
Mnuchin, the main representative of the Trump administration in the coronavirus legislation, said he would return to the Capitol at 9:30 am EDT (1330 GMT) on Tuesday to resume discussions.
He told reporters that Trump would like to have a deal and hoped it would be completed on Tuesday.
The government launched a major boost last week for actions to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic and a sharp decline in the stock market, after Trump himself spent several weeks ruling out the risks of the virus.
The Senate measure includes financial aid for ordinary Americans, small businesses and affected industries such as 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 the provisions sought by Republicans would exclude nonprofit groups from receiving help for small businesses and would extend a sexual abstinence education program that is due to expire in May.
Pelosi, who was involved in the Senate negotiations, also released his own counterproposal, which would add billions of dollars to help states conduct elections by mail.
Slideshow (9 Images)
Republicans 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 has cut its ranks, giving Democrats more influence.
On Sunday, Republican Sen. Rand Paul said he tested positive for coronavirus. But since he continued to circulate on Capitol Hill after taking the test, three other Republicans have decided to self-quarantine as a precaution.
Reporting by Richard Cowan and David Morgan; Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell, Andy Sullivan, Doina Chiacu and Patricia Zengerle; Written by Andy Sullivan and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Peter Cooney and Clarence Fernandez
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