The United States Senate will remain in session next week to deliberate over relief packages to combat the health crisis and assuage Americans' economic fears that have stemmed from the novel coronavirus outbreak, Reuters reports. The Senate was initially scheduled to have a spring recess, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) tweeted about the change on Thursday (March 12), adding, "I hope Congress can pass bipartisan legislation to continue combating the coronavirus and keep our economy strong."
But is Congress ready to act in a fully cooperative matter? Oh, goodness, no. Before announcing the Senate would remain in session, McConnell explained that the Republican-controlled Senate objected to the bill first proposed by Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), on the grounds that the bill "does not focus immediate relief on affected Americans. It proposes new bureaucracy that would only delay assistance. It wanders into policy areas that are not related to the pressing issues at hand."
The bill, called the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, is a wide-reaching, if cursory, proposal that includes helping Americans who are food insecure, provides assistance to those who have lost work due to the spread of the coronavirus, waives the cost of testing for the virus, and protects those who need emergency sick days should they or a loved one need to self-quarantine. The bill does not go so far as pausing collection on student loan debt, or assisting Americans with their mortgage payments, as Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) suggested, but it does provide relief to those who are being forced to evacuate their campuses on short notice.
Yet while McConnell said he wanted a more tightly edited bill than the one Pelosi offered, other Republican lawmakers reportedly wanted something even broader: As Roll Call reports, the White House was concerned the bill did not clarify that "coverage reimbursements don't reference the so-called Hyde amendment," which prohibits government funds from being used for abortion care. It is not clear why the Trump administration would link COVID-19, the illness borne as a result of the coronavirus, with such healthcare services.
"The Senate is ready to consider a bipartisan, bicameral package if House Democrats return to the table & work with the President's team," McConnell added on Twitter. Speaker Pelosi has reportedly been in repeated talks with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve is prepared to infuse the economy with up to $1.5 trillion in short-term loans to buoy small businesses, the Wall Street Journal reports. Coincidentally, that is almost a mirror amount of how much it would cost to wipe the majority of American student loan debt, which experts agree would also boost the economy in its own right.