WASHINGTON — A legislative response to coronavirus is now in the Senate’s hands while officials and lawmakers work on a broader stimulus package.
Last night, the House of Representatives passed an amended version of the bill, finally breaking a procedural logjam. The bill would provide paid sick leave to millions of American workers, bolster unemployment insurance and make coronavirus tests free.
It is expected to pass the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor yesterday that senators were “eager to act quickly” to help combat the disease, which has been named COVID-19.
The bill would only be the “beginning” of the legislative response, McConnell said on the Senate floor, as lawmakers begin deliberations on another, even larger package to combat the coronavirus’ effects on the economy as stocks tumble and business losses mount.
The administration already is working with lawmakers on another relief bill to help cruise lines, airlines and other businesses that have been particularly hammered by the economic fallout from the virus. The airlines alone are seeking $50 billion in grants and loans to cover losses from coronavirus.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY. has unveiled a proposal to spend $750 billion to address a number of sectors, including emergency child care for health care workers and first responders; medicine and food delivery systems for seniors, and assistance to keep public transportation running.
And McConnell has his own list of broad priorities: more help for families dealing with financial challenges, aid to businesses hurt by the disruptions and shoring up the health care sector to prevent it from becoming overburdened.
Some lawmakers have expressed concerns about moving quickly on legislation as the virus disrupts travel and the ability for Congress to reconvene and pass new legislation.
“I don’t think we can assume that we can keep reconvening the Senate every week,,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told reporters yesterday, citing the possible disruption of air travel and the risk of exposing members to the virus. “I don’t think we can operate as if we can just bring the Senate and the House back together whenever we want.”
The virus’ impact on the nation’s politics is already being felt. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine ordered polls closed Monday, postponing the state’s Democratic election scheduled for Tuesday. He cited a “health emergency” in making his decision. Arizona, Florida, and Illinois, the other three states holding primary elections today, have not announced any changes to their voting schedule.
Coronavirus Task Force press briefing this morning
The Coronavirus Task Force has a briefing scheduled at 11:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday morning to discuss the coronavirus. During yesterday’s task force briefing, the Trump administration rolled out new guidelines for Americans to follow over the next 15 days, including: avoiding groups of over 10 people, attending school from home, and urging governors in states with community spread to close bars, food courts, gyms and restaurants.
President Donald Trump also has a busy day of meetings with business leaders to discuss the impacts of the coronavirus. Trump is scheduled to hold a phone meeting with restaurant executives, meet with tourism industry executives and participate in a phone conference with supply retailers and wholesalers.