Top US congressional and White House officials on Monday emerged from grueling negotiations at the Capitol over a nearly US$2 trillion coronavirus rescue package saying that they expected to reach a deal yesterday.
US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin and US Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said that they had spoken by telephone with US President Donald Trump during the long night of negotiations.
While the two sides have resolved many issues in the sweeping package, some remain.
At midnight on Monday, they emerged separately to say talks would continue into the night.
“We look forward to having a deal tomorrow,” Mnuchin told reporters after exiting Schumer’s office.
“The president is giving us direction,” Mnuchin said. “The president would like to have a deal and he’s hopeful we can conclude this.”
Moments later, Schumer agreed that a deal was almost within reach, saying: “That’s the expectation — that we finish it tomorrow and hopefully vote on it tomorrow evening.”
The long evening of shuttle negotiations came after a long day trying to close the deal. The massive package is a far-reaching effort to prop up the US economy, help households and bolster the healthcare system amid the growing crisis.
Mnuchin said that talks were expected to resume at 9:30am yesterday.
Tensions flared on Monday as Washington strained to respond to the worsening coronavirus outbreak, with the US Congress arguing over the nearly US$2 trillion economic rescue package and an impatient Trump musing openly about letting the 15-day shutdown expire on Monday next week.
As the US braces for an onslaught of sick Americans, and millions are forced indoors to avert a spike that risks overwhelming hospitals, the most ambitious federal intervention in modern times is testing whether Washington can act swiftly to deal with the pandemic on the home front.
“It’s time to get with the program, time to pass historic relief,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said angrily earlier in the day as he opened the chamber after a nonstop weekend session that failed to produce a deal. “This is a national emergency.”
Fuming, McConnell warned Democrats — pointedly US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi — to quit stalling on “political games,” as he described Democratic efforts to steer more of the aid toward public health and workers, and push other priorities.
Trump, who has largely been hands off from the negotiations, weighed in late on Monday from the White House briefing room, declaring that Congress should vote “for the Senate bill as written,” dismissing any Democratic proposal.
“It must go quickly,” Trump said. “This is not the time for political agendas.
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