The Senate on Wednesday passed the House’s coronavirus legislation to provide sick leave, unemployment help and free testing to Americans, sending the second COVID-19 relief bill to President Trump.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had criticized the legislation negotiated by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin as having “real shortcomings”, but urged his members to “gag and vote for it anyway” to show bipartisan cooperation during the global pandemic.
“This is a time for urgent bipartisan action, and in this case, I do not believe we should let perfection be the enemy of something that will help even a subset of workers,” McConnell said Wednesday morning in announcing he’d vote for the House legislation.
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Next up, the Senate and White House have been moving quickly to draft a third round of stimulus legislation that could infuse about $1 trillion into the U.S. economy that has been rattled by school closures, business shutdowns and steep declines in the travel and tourism industry as many Americans stayed home.
McConnell signaled Wednesday that Senate Republicans were close to an agreement on the next round of legislation that would help businesses, American workers, health-care professionals and others hard hit by the public health emergency.
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“Yeah, we’re working along and hoping to be together shortly,” McConnell told reporters when asked whether Republicans were close on legislation.
The House and Senate already passed a bipartisan $8.3 billion package to prop up the health-care system to prepare for the influx of sick Americans. The second response bill has been targeted at bringing relief to workers who lost their jobs and families at home for illnesses, quarantines or caring for kids whose schools have shuttered.
Trump backed the plan that passed the House early Saturday morning with broad bipartisan support in a 363-40 vote. The legislation moved so hastily, bypassing the normal review processes, that the House had to make corrections to the bill language Monday.
Earlier Wednesday, the Senate defeated amendments to the House legislation that were offered by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and a third by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.
Now, all eyes have been on the third round of stimulus that’s expected to top $1 trillion, which would infuse Americans’ bank accounts with two rounds of direct cash payments.
The Trump administration has been seeking $250 billion in payments to Americans starting April 6, followed by another $250 billion cash payment round beginning May 18, according to the working draft of the plan obtained by Fox Business.
The two payments to taxpayers would be identical and the amounts would vary by family income and size, according to the Treasury Department document on the “Stage Three” coronavirus proposal.
The Trump proposal would provide $50 billion for lending to the airline industry and another $150 billion to “other severely distressed sectors of the U.S. economy” through secured lending or loan guarantees.
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The Trump administration also signaled it wanted $300 billion to help small businesses, which have suffered under social isolation and various cities banning dine-in services at bars and restaurants in an effort to prevent the spread of the COVID-19.
McConnell said the Senate won’t recess until this third round of stimulus is passed.
Fox News’ Sally Persons contributed to this report.