Capitol Report: Senate strains to reach common ground on coronavirus stimulus deal

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Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says a deal needs to be done “today.”

Senate lawmakers are racing to finish a massive aid package to help Americans devastated by the coronavirus, as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said it needed to be completed “today.”

Talks continued Monday as Democrats blocked a fresh effort by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to move a bill forward.

“We hope and expect to conclude negotiations today,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

“I think we’re very close. We need to get this deal done today,” Mnuchin told CNBC.

But it appeared that no more votes would be taken Monday night, as negotiations continued.

A test vote on the massive aid package failed Sunday night in the Senate. The final bill could end up close to $2 trillion, Mnuchin said.

‘We need to get this deal done today.’

– Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin

Democrats like Sen. Elizabeth Warren said Republicans were trying to advance a bill that “would be great for giant corporations and leave everyone else behind.”

Democrats want to add provisions such as expanding unemployment insurance to four months at 100% pay and boost aid to hospitals. Republicans sought to provide $500 billion for the Treasury to make loans or investments to support businesses.

Eric Ueland, the White House’s legislative affairs director, said negotiators were still working on the bailout fund Democrats say does not have enough oversight and transparency. “That’s part of the conversations that are ongoing,” Ueland said.

Across the Capitol, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she was unveiling her own coronavirus response bill, something she had said she would do Sunday and that caused McConnell to accuse her of blowing up the talks that had been taking place between Senate Republicans, Senate Democrats and the Trump administration.

“The Senate Republicans’ bill, as presented, put corporations first, not workers and families,” the California Democrat said.

Pelosi said her bill would do more to protect workers’ pay, provides funding for coronavirus treatment and personal protective equipment for health care workers, gives direct payments to workers and would also provide money for universities and grants to states to help with holding elections.

A Pelosi draft would expand the rebate checks that Senate Republicans proposed, noted Roll Call, offering $1,500 for individuals and $3,000 for joint filers, with $1,500 per child, capped at three children. That is up from $1,200, $2,400 and $500 in the Senate GOP bill.

Mnuchin, who, along with Ueland has been shuttling between Democratic and Republican Senate leaders for several days, gave a mildly upbeat assessment as the Senate vote was going on.

“We’re very close. We’re knocking down issues. We worked through all morning and we’re not leaving until we have a deal,” he told reporters.

On the bailout fund issue, Mnuchin said he had met with Senate Republicans in the morning to go through a document on it, then took that feedback to Democratic Sens. Mark Warner of Virginia and Sherrod Brown of Ohio. He then briefed McConnell and Schumer separately on it. “I think we’re making a lot of progress,” he said.

U.S. stocks fell on Monday with the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +11.37% off about 800 points, even after the Federal Reserve announced it would purchase an unlimited amount of Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities in order to support the financial markets.