US Senate passes $2tn stimulus package as coronavirus batters economy

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US Senate passes $2tn stimulus package as coronavirus batters economy

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(TheGuardian) Bill heads to House after days of negotiations over what is expected to be largest stimulus in US history

The US Senate has passed a nearly $2tn stimulus package to help rescue the American economy ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic as Donald Trump considers easing restrictions aimed at combating the contagion.

After days of around-the-clock negotiations between senators and administration officials, a bipartisan compromise was struck over what is expected to be the largest US economic stimulus measure ever passed.

The bill next goes to the House, where Democrats have introduced their own proposal.

Tempers flared on Monday on Capitol Hill as senators grappled with the need to pass the critical aid. Democrats twice blocked efforts to move forward with a vote on the legislation, arguing the proposal did not provide strong enough protections for workers, families and healthcare providers nor did it impose strict enough restrictions on businesses that receive federal bailout money. Republicans in turn fumed that Democrats were playing politics in a time of crisis.

“This is not a juicy political opportunity,” the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, said in a remarks from the floor on Monday. “This is a national emergency.”

The bill’s passage came as Trump grew impatient with his administration’s decision to impose strict restrictions on all aspects of American public life as a way to stop the spread of the virus, a move recommended by US health officials that has brought the economy grinding close to a halt.

“We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself. At the end of the 15-day period, we will make a decision as to which way we want to go,” Trump wrote in an all-caps tweet on Sunday night and shared again on Monday. The 15-day period of White House guidelines to enforce physical distancing and other measures began on 16 March.

Loosening restrictions on public activities and social distancing would defy the best advice of his administration’s health officials, including Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who warned that the US has not yet experienced the worst of the pandemic.

 

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