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Senate passes $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill bogged down by days of partisan wrangling

Senate passes $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill bogged down by days of partisan wrangling
US senators have passed a much-delayed $2 trillion stimulus bill, aimed at bolstering the economy while the country is rattled by coronavirus lockdowns. The mammoth package was approved after days of bitter partisan fighting.

Senators moved to vote on the bill late Wednesday night after the last hurdle preventing its passage – an amendment put forward by four Republican senators to curb the legislation’s generous unemployment provisions – was eliminated, failing to gain the necessary 60 yeas.

Despite the days of political tug-of-war over the legislation, it was passed unanimously in the end, 96-0, with no senator voting in the negative. Four lawmakers were absent from the vote, as Republican Senators Rand Paul (Kentucky), John Thune (South Dakota), Mitt Romney (Utah) and Mike Lee (Utah) are each either ill with Covid-19, or in self-isolation.

The bill is now headed to the House, which is set to debate the package on Friday morning.

“The House will convene at 9:00 a.m. on Friday, March 27, 2020 to consider the bill... we expect the bill to pass by voice vote on Friday,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s office stated.

The sticking-point amendment, filed by Senator Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska), sought to limit the payouts so that the unemployed would not receive more money than they would have otherwise through their jobs. Sasse, along with three other GOP Senators – Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Tim Scott (R-South Carolina), and Rick Scott (R-Florida) – argued that the bill, which envisions $600 a week for those forced out of work by coronavirus lockdowns on top of regular unemployment insurance payments, discourages people from going to work at all.

“You’re literally incentivizing taking people out of the workforce at a time when we need critical infrastructure supplied with workers,” Graham said.

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Apart from supporting the unemployed, the massive aid package will provide workers with cash transfers – sending checks of $1,200 for those who earn under $75,000 per year. It will also inject $100 billion into the healthcare sector, give hundreds of billions of dollars in loan guarantees to small businesses and disburse funds to step up testing for the coronavirus, among other provisions.

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