U.S. Senate leadership aims to finalize trillion-dollar coronavirus bill




  • In US
  • 2020-03-22 14:16:42Z
  • By Reuters
U.S. Senate leadership aims to finalize trillion-dollar coronavirus bill
U.S. Senate leadership aims to finalize trillion-dollar coronavirus bill  

By Richard Cowan and Susan Heavey

WASHINGTON, March 22 (Reuters) - Republican and Democratic leaders of the U.S. Senate were headed back to the negotiating table on Sunday as they scrambled to work out a $1 trillion-plus bill aimed at limiting the coronavirus pandemic's heavy toll on the economy.

The bill, Congress's third effort to limit the economic hit, aimed to include financial assistance for average Americans, small businesses and critically affected industries including airlines.

The virus has killed at least 325 and sickened more than 25,000 across the United States, leading governors and mayors to shut schools, businesses and many aspects of American life.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin predicted on Sunday the White House and Congress would reach an agreement. Congressional leaders were due to resume negotiations at 11 a.m. (1500 GMT). Over the past week President Donald Trump's administration has been pushing for aggressive steps to stem the economic hit, after Trump spent several weeks downplaying the virus' risks.

Mnuchin said the package would include loans for small businesses, direct deposits that could give an average U.S. family of four $3,000 and up to $4 trillion in liquidity for the U.S. central bank to support the economy.

Mnuchin, speaking on "Fox News Sunday," also said the additional liquidity measures for the Federal Reserve aims to help a broad base of U.S. businesses get through next 90 to 120 days.

After two days of marathon closed-door negotiations, there was no sign of an overarching deal between negotiators late on Saturday, despite Republicans' claims of bipartisan agreement on specific issues including unemployment insurance and small business assistance.

"The past two days of intense bipartisan talks are very close to a resolution," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Saturday. McConnell plans to hold a vote on the sprawling package on Monday.

Combined with actions undertaken by the U.S. Federal Reserve and the administration, the prospective bill would have a $2 trillion net impact on a U.S. economy facing powerful headwinds spawned by the outbreak, according to White House officials.

Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat who met twice on Saturday with Mnuchin, agreed progress was being made.

"I'm optimistic we can get a deal," the New York Democrat told reporters on Saturday.

Once approved by the Senate, any measure would need to be voted on in the Democratic-led House before Trump could side it into law. (Reporting By Rick Cowan, Susan Heavey, Arshad Mohammed and Andrea Shalal, writing by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Scott Malone and Lisa Shumaker)

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