US Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer
Washington (AFP) - The US Senate’s top Democrat said Monday that lawmakers were “very close” to a deal on a trillion-dollar rescue package that aids millions of American workers and businesses hard hit by the coronavirus crisis.
After the Senate failed to advance the roughly $1.7 trillion Republican proposal Sunday, pressure swelled on Capitol Hill to immediately reach a compromise that could help stave off an economic collapse and provide protections for suffering families.
“We’re very close to reaching a deal. Very close. And our goal is to reach a deal today,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told the chamber.
“We are hopeful, even confident, that we will meet that goal.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he aimed to get the process back on track, and the chamber conducted a swift voice vote Monday to return to debating the measure.
Both sides were engaged in intense negotiations, the party leaders said. Further votes were expected Monday.
McConnell seethed at Democrats for what he called “fiddling” about specifics of what ultimately may be the largest emergency rescue package ever passed by the US Congress.
“The markets are tanking once again… because this body can’t get it’s act together,” he said, pointing a finger at Democrats.
“It’s time to get with the program (and) pass historic relief,” he said. “The country doesn’t have time for these political games.”
Democrats have said the Republican plan failed to sufficiently protect millions of American workers or shore up the critically under-equipped health care system during the coronavirus crisis.
They also argued that it would pump hundreds of billions of dollars into US corporations with insufficient oversight, and no requirement that the companies keep their workers on payroll.
“They proposed a $500 billion slush fund for corporations with almost no conditions,” former vice president Joe Biden, the all-but-certain Democratic presidential nominee, said Monday in webcast remarks, as he criticized the Republican plan.
Democrats have also warned that the bill as proposed does not bar corporations from using the taxpayer funds to buy back stocks or increase executives’ pay, something some Republicans, including US President Donald Trump, have publicly opposed.