Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin say they hope a deal on a $2 trillion economic aid package can be reached Tuesday.
They held talks until late into the night Monday after the Senate failed for a second time to advance a bill that would send money to most Americans and many businesses that have been severely impacted by the deadly coronavirus.
Republican and Democratic leaders have exchanged sharp words as the process unfolded in recent days, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell accusing Democrats of delaying the process by asking for changes to the bill and Schumer saying McConnell wasted time by bringing two procedural votes on the measure he knew would fail.
Democrats first blocked advancing the aid package on Sunday. After more negotiations Sunday night and Monday morning, they again voted against moving the legislation forward on Monday afternoon, triggering the fresh talks between Schumer and Mnuchin, with a phone call to President Donald Trump.
The aid package is aimed at boosting the U.S. economy by sending direct payments to more than 90% of Americans and a vast array of U.S. businesses to help them weather the immediate and burgeoning economic effects of the coronavirus.
Most U.S. families of four would get $3,000 in assistance, with the aid package also creating a $500 billion lending program for businesses, cities and states, and $350 billion more to help small businesses meet payroll costs at a time when there is a declining demand for their products and services.
Democrats focused their objections on the $500 billion lending program for businesses, which some critics are calling a “slush fund” because the Treasury Department would have wide discretion over who gets the money, with little accounting for how the money is spent.
Trump, in comments made Sunday, appeared to agree with the Democrats’ contention.
“I don’t want to give a bailout to a company and then have somebody go out and use that money to buy back stock in the company and raise the (stock) price and then get a bonus,” Trump said. “So, I may be Republican, but I don’t like that. I want them to use the money for the workers.”
But by Monday afternoon he stood before reporters at the White House and said Congress should approve “the Senate bill as written.”
Governors in at least 13 states have ordered millions of people to stay home, in effect quarantined, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. No national shutdown is planned.
The toll from the coronavirus is mounting in the U.S. More than 41,000 cases have been confirmed, with more than 500 deaths. Both figures have markedly increased in recent days.