Washington – Congress Republicans and Democrats sought last night to bridge the gap that complicated the agreement on a giant Economic Stimulus package for the federal government to mitigate - at least over the next 10 to 12 weeks - the emergency caused by the coronavirus.
With five Republican senators entered self-quarantine, including Rand Paul of Kentucky who tested positive for the virus, the Senate majority - 53-47 - could not advance its proposal on a first attempt last night.
The vote was 47 to 47, reflecting the need for further negotiation. Yesterday afternoon, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House Democratic majority would introduce its version of an economic stimulus proposal if there was no agreement with the Republican leadership and the White House.
Since Friday, the congressional leadership and the White House have been trying to reach a consensus proposal - which would include Puerto Rico - to make cash payments to citizens, assistance to hospitals, small businesses, airlines, and other U.S. corporations.
"Both sides have worked hard," said Senate Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said they hope to be able to make direct deposits of up to $1,200 to most individuals in the first week of April. Details will depend on final negotiations in Congress.
In an interview with FOX, Mnuchin said the effort was aimed at reaching an agreement before financial markets opened today and to be able to pass it, at least in the Senate, before the close of Monday on Wall Street.
Mnuchin said that amid the paralysis of large sectors of the economy, the intention is for citizens to receive assistance through the "federal check," better access to the unemployment program, and funds for small and medium-sized businesses to retain employees.