McConnell: No further Senate votes on coronavirus package Monday night

March 23 (UPI) — Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said there will be no further votes on a more-than $ 1 trillion coronavirus stimulus package on Monday evening as Democrats and Republicans struggled to reach an agreement.

“We will not be having any votes tonight,” McConnel said on the Senate floor.

He went on to set up another vote as late as Wednesday but a vote could take place as early as Tuesday if the two sides reach an agreement.

Senate Democrats voted against advancing the measure for the second time earlier Monday, saying it failed to adequately protect American workers.

It was the second time Democrats declined to approve a procedural vote to begin debate on the package, which could total $ 1.6 trillion. The two parties were continuing negotiations on the legislation with hopes the chamber can pass it by the end of Monday.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York met with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House legislative affairs director Eric Ueland on Monday. He’s said he’s confident the chamber will pass the legislation soon.

“Given more time, I believe we could reach a point where the legislation is close enough to what the nation needs for all senators, all senators to want to move forward,” Schumer said. “We are not yet at that point.”

Democrats say the legislation focuses too much on helping big corporations over helping the average worker. They say it doesn’t protect workers from layoffs and object to a provision that allows Mnuchin to keep secret which companies receive federal funds for up to six months.

They’re seeking unemployment measures lasting four months instead of three, and which include independent contractors.

Democrats also are accusing Republicans of adding unrelated measures to the legislation, including an extension of an abstinence education program set to expire in May, one Democratic aide told Politico.

McConnell accused Democrats of obstructing the bill.

“So we’re fiddling here, fiddling with the emotions of the American people, fiddling with the markets, fiddling with our healthcare. The American people expect us to act tomorrow,” he said. “And I want everybody to fully understand if we aren’t able to act [Monday], it’ll be because of our colleagues on the other side continuing to dicker when the country expects us to come together and address this problem.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi makes a statement about the U.S. government’s response to the coronavirus in the U.S. Capitol on Monday. Photo by Joshua Roberts/UPI

House Democrats, meanwhile, are discussing the possibility of passing their own sweeping legislation. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California spoke about her proposal Monday, offering what she described as a more family-friendly package.

Her proposal includes more extensive unemployment insurance and food stamps, student loan relief, and prevents corporations from using federal funds to buy back stocks. Pelosi’s expected to unveil the legislation — the Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act — later Monday.

“The Senate Republican bill put corporations first, but because of the insistence of Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Democrats progress has been made. We urge the Senate to move closer to the values in the Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act,” she said.

Mnuchin said the first part of the Senate bill includes what he called “small business retention loans” as many businesses have closed while the federal government suggests people remain home to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and some states have ordered mandatory closures.

The bill would also provide direct deposits, which Mnuchin said would see an average family of four receive about $ 3,000, along with enhanced unemployment insurance for people who have been laid off as a result of the outbreak.

If passed, the legislation will be the third aid package aimed at tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus has killed more than 500 people and sickened more than 43,000 in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University figures as of Monday night.

U.S. copes with COVID-19 pandemic

Police officers patrol along the reflecting pool after D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser stopped vehicle access to the National Mall and closed pedestrian access to the cherry blossoms over concerns of the coronavirus pandemic in Washington, D.C. on March 23. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI.. | License Photo

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