Mnuchin expresses hope a deal is 'very close' on $2 trillion coronavirus aid package in US Senate

Reuters Washington Mar 24, 2020, 09.42 AM(IST)

File photo. Photograph:( AFP )

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Democrats said the $2 trillion (1.72 trillion pounds) measure contained too little money for states and hospitals and not enough restrictions on a fund to help big businesses.

A far-reaching coronavirus economic stimulus package remained stalled in the U.S. Senate on Monday as lawmakers haggled over its provisions, but the U.S. Treasury secretary voiced confidence a deal would be reached soon.

Democrats said the $2 trillion (1.72 trillion pounds) measure contained too little money for states and hospitals and not enough restrictions on a fund to help big businesses.

A 49-46 vote fell short of the 60 votes needed to advance, as the Republican-controlled chamber remained deadlocked for a second day. Only one Democrat, Senator Doug Jones, voted with Republicans to advance the bill.

Congress has already passed two packages of legislation to blunt the economic toll of the pandemic, which has killed more than 550 people in the United States and sickened more than 43,800, thrown millions out of work and led state governors to order nearly a third of the nation's population to stay at home.

Tempers frayed as Republicans accused Democrats of obstruction during a national emergency, but negotiators from both parties and Republican President Donald Trump's administration continued meeting in private rooms where they have spent days trying to agree on a relief package.

"Why are the American people still waiting? Why are Democrats filibustering the bipartisan bill they helped write?" Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

Democrats insisted it needed to include more oversight provisions for a $500 billion fund to help large businesses.

Trump was asked at a White House briefing who would provide oversight of how the funds are used, and responded that he would. "I'll be the oversight," he told reporters.

Democrats said they thought an agreement was close.

"Take a deep breath. We're gonna pass this bill," Senator Dick Durbin, the chamber's No 2 Democrat, said.