Congress moves toward final decisions on stimulus rescue package as coronavirus hits Senate

By Laura King and Jennifer Haberkorn | Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON — Congressional leaders continued negotiations Sunday on an enormous financial rescue package totaling more than $1 trillion meant to steer the U.S. economy through the coronavirus crisis and help ordinary Americans weather devastating job losses as lawmakers continued to diverge on key points.

Although both parties said they agreed on the urgency of passing a measure quickly as unemployment rapidly mounts and jittery markets prepare to reopen Monday, the two sides remained at loggerheads on several key issues, including how much money to provide state and local governments faced with the crisis and how much authority to give administration officials to decide which major businesses to bail out.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said the two sides were close to a deal, but Democrats sharply disagreed, saying the current version amount to a “corporate slush fund.”

Lawmakers faced another pressure toward quick action — concerns about their own health. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, announced Sunday that he had tested positive for the coronavirus infection, although he said he felt fine.

Worry has run high in the Senate about other members falling ill since many had spent time with Paul. Sunday afternoon, several Republican senators announced they were self-quarantining on the advice of congressional doctors because of their contact with Paul. Their announcements threatened to wipe out the Republican majority in the Senate, which does not allow members to vote remotely.

“All senators are going to seek medical advice as to what action we should take to make sure that we don’t in any way spread the virus ourselves,” said Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, one of those who announced a self-quarantine. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, reportedly told colleagues that Paul had been working out in the Senate gym Sunday morning before finding out the result of his test.

Meanwhile, the full effects of the public health emergency are only beginning to be felt, experts warned, as state governors stepped up pleas for more robust federal intervention.

In Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a stay-home order and closed nonessential businesses, saying that the state now had “the fastest growth rate of confirmed cases in the world” and risked becoming “the next Italy,” which currently has the worst death rate from the disease caused by the coronavirus.

“This emergency is going to get worse before it gets better,” he said. “We’re in a race against time with this coronavirus and its spread in Louisiana.” The state currently has the third-highest per capita rate of cases after New York and Washington, 830 cases and 20 deaths, according to state figures.

Nationwide, “we’re going to get hit, there’s no doubt about it,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious-disease specialist, said Sunday.

But Fauci, the director at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, said in an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that the drastic steps being taken across the country — school closings, business shutdowns, shelter-in-place orders — would pay off by helping stem …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Health


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