Aid package hits snag in Senate

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell arrives on Capitol Hill Monday as the Senate worked to pass a coronavirus relief bill. AP

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif. speaks outside her office on Capitol Hill, Monday, March 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool) Andrew Harnik

  • A Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police vehicle is parked on the other side of a tape police line along the Tidal Basin as cherry blossoms cover the trees, in Washington, Monday, March 23, 2020. As Washington, D.C. continues to work to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), Mayor Muriel Bowser extended road closures and other measures to restrict access to the Tidal Basin, a main tourist attraction. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) Carolyn Kaster

  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin walks to a meeting with Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y. in his office on Capitol Hill, Monday, March 23, 2020, in Washington. The Senate is working to pass a coronavirus relief bill. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) Andrew Harnik

  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, third from left, and White House Legislative Affairs Director Eric Ueland, left, walk to a meeting with Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y. in his office on Capitol Hill, Monday, March 23, 2020, in Washington. The Senate is working to pass a coronavirus relief bill. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) Andrew Harnik

  • A 17-year-old who asked not to be named, wears a hazmat suit, gas mask, boots, and gloves as he walks past people holding a sign that says, "you need Jesus" as he and his family from Gaithersburg, Md. walk under cherry blossom trees in full bloom along the tidal basin, Sunday, March 22, 2020, in Washington. "I'm not worried for me since I'm young," says the 17-year-old, "I'm wearing this in case I come into contact with anyone who is older so that I won't be a threat to them." He plans to wear his protective outfit for coronavirus each time he leaves the house. Sections of the National Mall and tidal basin areas have been closed to vehicular traffic to encourage people to practice social distancing and not visit Washington's iconic cherry blossoms this year due to coronavirus concerns. The trees are in full bloom this week and would traditionally draw a large crowd. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) Jacquelyn Martin

  • President Donald Trump speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House, Sunday, March 22, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) Patrick Semansky

  • Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police vehicles parks along an empty Independence Avenue and behind yellow police tape near the Tidal Basin and cherry blossoms, in Washington, Monday, March 23, 2020. As Washington, D.C. continues to work to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), Mayor Muriel Bowser extended road closures and other measures to restrict access to the Tidal Basin, a main tourist attraction. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) Carolyn Kaster

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. walks to the Senate Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, March 23, 2020, as the Senate is working to pass a coronavirus relief bill. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) Andrew Harnik

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., arrives to speak outside her office on Capitol Hill, Monday, March 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool) Andrew Harnik

Published: 3/23/2020 5:32:34 PM

President Donald Trump expressed qualms Monday about extending the current 15-day shutdown recommended by the federal government, even as his officials warned that the coronavirus crisis is deepening and Congress ran into more roadblocks trying to complete a nearly $2 trillion economic rescue package.

At the Capitol, tempers flared and emotions were raw as senators wrangled over critically needed aid. Democrats blocked another vote to advance the package, trying to steer more of the assistance to public health and workers. They argue the package is tilted toward corporations.

Trump sounded a note of impatience about the two weeks of suspended public activities his administration recommended Americans live through starting a week ago. In all capital letters, he tweeted: “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself. At the end of the 15-day period, we will make a decision as to which way we want to go.”

His suggestion that the remedies may be more harmful than the outbreak contradicts the advice of medical experts across the country.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi assailed Trump’s apparent wavering on the federal response and statements he’s made about the pandemic that some of his public-health officials have had to walk back.

“He’s a notion-monger, just tossing out things that have no relationship to a well coordinated, science-based, government-wide response to this,” she said on a health-care conference call. “Thank God for the governors who are taking the lead in their state. Thank God for some of the people in the administration who speak truth to power.”

A week ago, the White House came out with a “15 Days to Stop the Spread” plan that encouraged Americans to work from home and avoid bars, restaurants and discretionary travel, as well as groups of more than 10 people. It also told older Americans and those with serious underlying health conditions that they should stay home and away from other people.

Since then, states that have become hot spots for the virus have implemented even more radical measures, which the White House has applauded.

Yet on Sunday, Vice President Mike Pence said the country should expect new federal guidance “which will make it possible for people that have been exposed to return to work more quickly with – by wearing a mask for a certain period of time.”

On Monday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was back on Capitol Hill after officials worked through the night on the massive economic rescue plan.

“We’re making a lot of progress,” Mnuchin said midday as he shuttled through the halls.

The top Senate Democrat, Chuck Schumer of New York, said: “We’re very close to reaching a deal.” Yet, another attempt to move the package forward snagged.

At the Capitol, the virus has struck close. Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who announced he tested positive for coronavirus, is now among five senators under self-quarantine. Several other lawmakers have cycled in and out of isolation. And the husband of Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., is in a hospital with pneumonia after testing positive, she said Monday.

Democrats are holding out as they argue the package is tilted toward corporations and did too little to help workers and health care providers. Schumer said earlier the bill would “affect this country and the lives of Americans, not just for the next few days, but in the next few months and years — so we have to make sure it is good.”

As talks progressed, Pelosi came out with the House Democrats’ own sweeping bill, urging Senate negotiators “to move closer to the values” in it. “We must be bold and forward looking,” she said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell fumed, warning Democrats – and Pelosi in particular – to quit stalling on “political games” and strike a deal. Other Republicans joined with fiery arguments on the Senate floor.

“It’s time to get with the program, time to pass historic relief,” McConnell said as he opened the chamber. “The eyes of the nation are on the Senate.”




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