WASHINGTON: A trillion-dollar Senate proposal to rescue the reeling US economy crashed to defeat Sunday after receiving zero support from Democrats, and with five Republicans absent from the chamber because of virus-related quarantines.
Democrats said the Republican plan failed to sufficiently protect millions of American workers or shore up the critically under-equipped health care system during the coronavirus crisis.
The bill proposed an estimated $1.7 trillion or more in funding to cushion the blow for American families and thousands of shuttered or suffering businesses.
Despite intense negotiations between Republicans, Democrats and President Donald Trump’s administration, the roll call was 47-47, far short of the 60 votes needed to advance.
Five Republican senators are in self-quarantine and did not vote, including Senator Rand Paul, who announced Sunday he had tested positive for the COVID-19 illness.
Even as infighting derailed the plan, lawmakers carried on with closed-door negotiations deep into Sunday hoping to get the package back on track.
Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin “are working late into the night, and they just had another productive meeting,” a Schumer spokesman said.
The shock Senate result heaps major pressure on Congress to overcome divisions and swiftly greenlight a federal government intervention – likely the largest of its kind in US history. The impasse likely will have a profound effect on already-traumatized stock markets when they open Monday.
The futures on the main US stock exchange indicators were dropping around four percent or more, indicating that Wall Street could open sharply lower. Hong Kong stocks plunged five percent upon opening.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blasted the Democratic opposition and warned of economic devastation ahead if Congress does not act promptly.
“The notion that we have time to play games here with the American economy and the American people is utterly absurd,” he fumed. “We need to signal to the public that we’re ready to get this thing done.”
He said he wanted lawmakers to recognize “the need to act before the markets go down further and the American people become even more depressed about our lack of ability to come together under the most extraordinary circumstances.”
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