U.S. lawmakers try again on a $1.8 trillion stimulus plan

Senators and senior Trump administration officials were scrambling on Monday to strike a deal on a $1.8 trillion measure to bolster the economy, after Democrats blocked action on the package on Sunday, demanding stronger protections for workers and restrictions for bailed-out businesses.

The vote on Sunday shook markets around the globe and threatened to derail bipartisan talks that had yielded substantial compromises over the outlines of the package, which is emerging as the largest economic stimulus measure in modern history.

“We need this to pass today,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told the Fox Business Network on Monday, just before heading to Capitol Hill to meet with Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, to try to cement a deal.

Mr. Mnuchin and Mr. Schumer met late into the night on Sunday after the failed vote, but did not come to terms.

At the heart of the impasse is a $425 billion fund created by the bill that the Federal Reserve could leverage for loans to assist broad groups of distressed companies, and an additional $75 billion it would provide for industry-specific loans. Democrats have raised concerns that the funds do not have rules for transparency or enough guardrails to make sure companies do not use the funds to enrich themselves or take government money and lay off workers. They also argue the measure would give Mr. Mnuchin too much discretion to decide which companies receive the funds, calling the proposal a “slush fund” for the administration.

As the legislation is currently written, Mr. Mnuchin would not have to disclose the recipients until six months after the loans were dispersed. Some Democrats also objected to loopholes in the legislation they said could allow Mr. Trump’s real estate empire to take advantage of the federal aid.

The Democratic leader told reporters shortly after midnight that the bill as currently written would give bailouts to major corporations without accountability and that it would not provide enough funding to health care workers on the front lines.

“This bill is going to affect this country and the lives of Americans — not just for the next few days, but in the next few months and years,” Mr. Schumer said, “so we have to make sure it is good.”

He said he hoped to have a compromise bill ready on Monday.

Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, has scheduled three procedural votes at noon Eastern in an effort to intensify pressure on Democrats to cement an agreement.

Also on Monday, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, said that her husband, John Bessler, had tested positive for the coronavirus. Ms. Klobuchar, writing in a post on Medium, said that she and her husband have been in different places for the past two weeks, and that because 14 days had elapsed since she saw him, she was following her doctor’s guidance and not getting a test for the virus while there is a shortage of tests in the country.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/23/world/coronavirus-updates-usa-world.html#link-5c0b1b46

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