Coronavirus pandemic

US Senate negotiators upbeat on passage of stimulus Bill

President Donald Trump said his administration would reassess whether to keep the economy shuttered after the initial 15-day period ends, saying it could extend another week.
President Donald Trump said his administration would reassess whether to keep the economy shuttered after the initial 15-day period ends, saying it could extend another week.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON • Negotiators seeking to hammer out the contours of a US$2 trillion (S$2.9 trillion) coronavirus economic stimulus package were upbeat about the prospects for its passage through the US Senate, insisting they had made significant progress despite failing so far to reach a bipartisan deal on the sweeping legislation.

Mr Steven Mnuchin, President Donald Trump's Treasury Secretary, said he would return to the Capitol for more talks yesterday, after negotiations on Monday ended at midnight without an agreement. The Senate was due to convene at 10am Eastern Time (10pm Singapore time). Neither Mr Mnuchin nor Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer provided details, but both were optimistic.

"That is the expectation, that we will finish it tomorrow, and hopefully vote on it tomorrow," Mr Schumer told reporters on Monday.

Republicans, Democrats and top Trump aides had negotiated for days over the package, which would be the third and largest passed to address the crisis if it is backed by both the Republican-majority Senate and the Democratic-majority House of Representatives. Republicans have objected that Democrats are trying to add unrelated provisions, such as support for renewable energy.

To become law, the measure must be signed by Mr Trump.

Democrats have twice blocked attempts to advance the Bill, saying it did not provide enough money for states and hospitals, lacked sufficient aid for the unemployed and did not include adequate supervision of a massive fund to aid big businesses.

On Monday, Mr Trump said his administration would reassess whether to keep the economy shuttered after the initial 15-day period ends next Monday, saying it could extend another week, and that certain parts of the country could reopen sooner than others, depending on the extent of infections.

"Our country wasn't built to be shut down," Mr Trump said during a briefing at the White House. "America will, again, and soon, be open for business. Very soon. A lot sooner than three or four months that somebody was suggesting. Lot sooner. We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself."

The President started talking about how to get people back to work around last Thursday, sources said, only three days after he helped roll out a 15-day plan from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to stem the rise of cases by encouraging most people to stay home.

It is likely the CDC guidelines would be relaxed rather than scrapped altogether, a source said.

NYTIMES, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2020, with the headline 'US Senate negotiators upbeat on passage of stimulus Bill'. Print Edition | Subscribe