- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 21, 2020

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said late Saturday that lawmakers are close to striking a final deal on a coronavirus stimulus package, and he said they’re plowing ahead with plans for a first test vote Sunday afternoon.

The Kentucky Republican said committee chairs were putting the details in legislative language and he hoped senators would have something in hand later Saturday, to prepare for the 3 p.m. vote.

“The past two days of intense bipartisan talks are very close to a resolution. I believe we are poised to deliver the significant relief that Americans need with the speed that this crisis demands,” Mr. McConnell said in a statement.

Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer’s spokesman said there isn’t a final agreement, and Democrats haven’t even seen “large parts” of the GOP bill.

“Democrats very much want to reach a bipartisan agreement to address this major health and economic crisis,” said Justin Goodman, the spokesman. “We look forward to reviewing their first draft and negotiating a bipartisan compromise.”

If a deal is struck, it would be the third coronavirus bill to clear Congress.

An initial $8.3 billion infusion of cash was followed last week by a bill to grant sick leave protections to those forced out of work by COVID-19.

This third measure is supposed to try to lessen the virus’s blow to the economy — at a cost of perhaps $2 trillion, which would be by far the largest immediate price tag for any single piece of legislation in history.

“We could get there,” Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer told CNN Saturday evening. “We may not get that high. It’s going to be certainly amply more than $1 trillion, $1.4 trillion.”

All sides on Capitol Hill agree on the need for the government to pump cash into Americans’ hands. The disagreements are over how much, and how best to deliver the money.

Sunday’s vote is to head off the chance of an initial filibuster. Senate leaders say they want to have a final vote to pass the bill on Monday.

It would then need House approval.

Mr. Schumer said he’s been in touch with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to keep her in the loop on negotiations.

Mr. McConnell said the measure they’re finalizing bill meets the broad goals he laid out days ago: “It will send direct relief to the American people, deliver historic assistance to small businesses so workers can keep getting paid, help secure our economic foundations and prevent layoffs, and ­surge more resources onto the front lines of our brave healthcare professionals’ fight to defend Americans and defeat the virus.”

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