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March 18, 2020 6:45 PM, EDT

Senate Clears Second Coronavirus Emergency Bill

McConnellSen. Mitch McConnell walks to the chamber as lawmakers negotiate on the emergency coronavirus response legislation. (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

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The Senate on March 18 cleared for President Donald Trump a multibillion-dollar aid package targeting individuals affected by the coronavirus disease, known as COVID-19.

The bill, approved by a 90-8 vote, would provide 12 weeks of paid sick leave, free diagnostic testing and food aid. The president signed the bill later in the day.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called the House-passed bill a “well-intentioned bipartisan product.”

“This is a time for urgent bipartisan action, and in this case, I do not believe we should let perfection be the enemy of something that will help even a subset of workers,” McConnell said.

“We must view our response to this crisis in phases that evolve and respond to the changing nature of this crisis. Like the bill we passed today, our next phase must also be bipartisan.” Members on both sides of the aisle, myself included, have concerns with certain parts of this bill, but as we confront this pandemic we cannot stand upon our partisan differences while the American people suffer. Everyone had to give a little to allow us to move forward,” added Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). “Now is not the time for politics and partisan bills.”

The measure was the second emergency aid package Congress cleared for the president this month. On March 6, Trump signed into law an $8.3 billion emergency supplemental package designed to promote health initiatives tackling the spread of the coronavirus.

Patrick Leahy

Leahy

Congress also is crafting an economic stimulus package that potentially would amount to $1 trillion, in response to a rapidly eroding economy. The White House indicated the measure would assist the airline industry, tourism and the service sector, as well as certain low-income consumers, to prop up markets and consumer confidence.

“We’re looking at sending checks to Americans immediately. And what we’ve heard from hard-working Americans, many companies have now shut down — whether it’s bars or restaurants,” said Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. “Americans need cash now, and the president wants to get cash now. And I mean now, in the next two weeks.”

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