House aims to push through $2 trillion coronavirus bill as holdout insists on formal vote

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House was poised on Friday to pass a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package, with Democratic and Republican aides saying enough members had flocked to the Capitol to override a holdout Republican lawmaker who threatened to delay passage.

Leadership of the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and top Republicans aimed to pass the largest relief measure that Congress has ever taken up in a voice vote, one of the fastest methods available, and pass it on to the Republican president for his signature.

“Today’s vote is about saving lives and livelihoods,” said Republican Representative Kevin Brady.

But Republican Representative Thomas Massie wrote on Twitter that he did not like that idea and would try to force the chamber to hold a formal, recorded vote. That could potentially delay action.

Lawmakers sat several seats apart from each other, maintaining distance as they waited for a chance to speak. The House scheduled three hours of debate, headed toward a possible vote sometime after noon EDT (1600 GMT).

As the debate unfolded, Massie sat toward the back of the chamber, chatting with other Republicans. It was unclear whether he would speak.

Republican President Donald Trump lashed out at Massie on Twitter, calling him a “third rate Grandstander.”

“He just wants the publicity. He can’t stop it, only delay,” the president wrote in a series of tweets. “…. throw Massie out of Republican Party!”

To minimize the threat of infection due to the coronavirus, the Capitol has laid out special procedures. Members are barred from sitting next to one another and would be called from their offices alphabetically for the vote. They will be required to use hand sanitizer before entering the chamber and encouraged to take the stairs, rather than use elevators, to better maintain social distancing.

Congress members and aides said they expected there would be enough lawmakers on hand to push through a vote if Massie demanded one. Republican Representative Greg Pence – Vice President Mike Pence’s older brother – said he had driven from Indiana in the Midwest for the vote, and others from as far away as California were present for the debate.

LAWMAKERS AT RISK

Most of the House’s 430 current members are in their home districts because of the coronavirus outbreak and would need to go to Washington if Massie forces a recorded vote – which could put them at further risk of contagion. At least three members of Congress have tested positive for the coronavirus and more than two dozen have self-quarantined to limit its spread.

Older people have proven especially vulnerable to the disease, and the average age of House members was 58 years old at the beginning of 2019, well above the average age of 38 for the U.S. population as whole.

The rescue package – which would be the largest fiscal relief measure ever passed by Congress – will rush direct payments to Americans within three weeks if the House backs it and Trump signs it into law. It passed the Republican-led Senate unanimously on Wednesday night.

The $2.2 trillion measure includes $500 billion to help hard-hit industries and $290 billion for payments of up to $3,000 to millions of families.

It will also provide $350 billion for small-business loans, $250 billion for expanded unemployment aid and at least $100 billion for hospitals and related health systems.

The rare but deep, bipartisan support in Congress underscored how seriously lawmakers are taking the global pandemic as Americans suffer and the medical system threatens to buckle.

The United States surpassed China and Italy on Thursday as the country with the most coronavirus cases. The number of U.S. cases passed 85,000, and the death toll exceeded 1,200.

The Labor Department on Thursday reported the number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits surged to 3.28 million, the highest level ever.

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Democratic group defies Trump, ramps up ad blasting coronavirus response

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic super PAC Priorities USA said on Thursday it planned to expand its use of an advertisement critical of President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic despite the Trump re-election campaign’s efforts to stop it.

Trump’s campaign on Wednesday said it had sent cease-and-desist letters to local television stations that were running the ad in Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin – all expected to be swing states critical in November’s presidential election – because of what it considers a false assertion that Trump referred to the virus as a hoax.

It threatened litigation if stations refused to pull the ad.

The ad plays verbatim quotes from the president, including “We have it totally under control,” and “One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear” as a graph shows the rising number of U.S. infection cases. In the opening, the ad includes his quote that “this is their new hoax.”

Trump’s re-election campaign said that quote was referring to “Democrat criticisms and politicization of the federal response to the public health crisis” and demanded the ad be taken down for falsely asserting he used the term to describe the coronavirus.

Priorities USA said the ad was still running in Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and would be expanded into Arizona over the next few weeks.

“The fact that Trump is going to such great lengths to keep the American people from hearing his own words adds to the urgency of communicating them far and wide,” the group’s chairman Guy Cecil said in a statement.

“Trump doesn’t want voters to know the truth. We will not be intimidated. We’ll keep telling the truth and holding Donald Trump accountable.”

The president has faced criticism for initially playing down the seriousness of the coronavirus.

In recent days he has again compared the epidemic to the seasonal flu and questioned the necessity of tough quarantine measures to stop its spread by saying such drastic efforts were not taken in response to car crashes or flu outbreaks.

The president, whose own coronavirus task force earlier this month recommended people avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 and eschew eating in restaurants for a 15-day period in order to blunt the virus’s spread, has said he wants to open the U.S. economy for business again by Easter on April 12.

He said he would listen to advice from public health professionals before making a decision.

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U.S. Senate offers $58 billion aid to airlines as they struggle to stay airborne

SYDNEY/SINGAPORE (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate offered struggling airlines unprecedented aid worth $58 billion that will helping cover their staff wages, as carriers around the world seek state support and turn passenger planes into cargo liners in their desperate bid for revenues.

The coronavirus crisis has ravaged the travel industry and grounded many of the world’s planes, prompting governments to take previously unthinkable steps to prevent bankruptcies, ranging from state handouts to temporarily halting competition rules.

“For airlines, it’s apocalypse now,” said Alexandre de Juniac, director general of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents carriers around the world.

“Travel restrictions and evaporating demand mean that, aside from cargo, there is almost no passenger business,” he said.

IATA, which estimates the pandemic will cost the global industry $252 billion in lost revenues this year, said it had written to 18 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including India, Japan and South Korea for emergency support for carriers.

Airlines UK, representing carriers in Britain, asked the government for tax and air traffic fee holidays.

The U.S. Senate passed an industry aid package, half in the form of grants to cover some 750,000 employees’ paychecks. Companies receiving funds cannot lay off employees before Sept. 30 or change collective bargaining agreements.

The bill has restrictions on stock buybacks, dividends and executive pay, and allows the government to take equity, warrants or other compensation as part of the rescue package.

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to back the move on Friday. President Donald Trump has promised to sign it.

United Airlines Holdings said capacity would drop by 68% in April and Alaska Air Group said it would cut its schedule by 70% in April and May. American Airlines suspended its dividend, drew down a $400 million credit line and secured an additional loan.

CUTTING JOBS

In Asian countries, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand have announced some financial relief for airlines, but this has not stopped carriers from putting staff on leave and grounding planes.

Singapore’s finance minister Heng Swee Keat said Singapore Airlines Ltd would soon announce “corporate action” supported by state investor Temasek Holdings to tackle the crisis. Share trading in the carrier, which said this week it was seeking extra funds, was halted on Thursday.

Virgin Australia plans to permanently cut more than 1,000 jobs among the 8,000 staff that have already been stood down. Australia’s Flight Centre Travel Group said it would cut 6,000 travel agent roles globally.

In a move unthinkable under normal conditions, Australia’s competition regulator said it would allow Virgin, Qantas Airways and Regional Express to coordinate flight schedules and share revenue on 10 regional routes.

“We hope that this temporary measure will also support airlines’ ability to again compete with each other on these routes once the pandemic crisis has passed,” Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Chairman Rod Sims said.

In bid to raise revenue and keep some planes flying, Delta Air Lines and Air New Zealand joined others in offering cargo flights and charters on passenger planes.

About half of the world’s air cargo normally travels in the bellies of passenger planes, so the cancellation of passenger flights has led to a sharp reduction in cargo capacity.

“We’ve shared these options with our global cargo customer base and are getting some strong interest from customers wanting to ship to and from Shanghai, Hong Kong, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sydney and Melbourne,” said Rick Nelson, Air New Zealand’s general manager for cargo.

Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways said it would operate 34 weekly cargo-only flights with Boeing 787 Dreamliner passenger jets to India, Thailand, Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia and South Korea.

Hawaiian Airlines said it had added more cargo-only turboprop flights between the state’s islands.

Roughly 1,800 planes had been grounded globally on Monday and Tuesday, according to aviation research firm Cirium.

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After Senate vote, massive U.S. coronavirus bill moves to the House

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate’s unanimous passage of a $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill sent the unprecedented economic legislation to the House of Representatives, whose Democratic leaders hope to pass it on Friday.

The Republican-led Senate approved the massive bill – which would be the largest fiscal stimulus measure ever passed by Congress – by 96 votes to none late on Wednesday, overcoming bitter partisan negotiations and boosting its chances of passing the Democratic-majority House.

The unanimous vote, a rare departure from bitter partisanship in Washington, underscored how seriously members of Congress are taking the global pandemic as Americans suffer and the medical system reels.

“When there’s a crisis of this magnitude, the private sector cannot solve it,” said Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer.

“Individuals even with bravery and valor are not powerful enough to beat it back. Government is the only force large enough to staunch the bleeding and begin the healing.”

The package is intended to flood the country with cash in a bid to stem the crushing impact on the economy of an intensifying epidemic that has killed more than 900 people in the United States and infected at least 60,000.

It follows two others that became law this month. The money at stake amounts to nearly half of the total $4.7 trillion the U.S. government spends annually.

Republican President Donald Trump, who has promised to sign the bill as soon as it passes the House, expressed his delight on Twitter. “96-0 in the United States Senate. Congratulations AMERICA!” he wrote.

Only two other nations, China and Italy, have more coronavirus cases than the United States. The World Health Organization has warned the United States looks set to become the epicenter of the pandemic.

The House’s Democratic leaders announced that they would have a voice vote on Friday. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she backed the bill, and was open to passing more legislation if needed to address the crisis in future.

The House Republican leadership is recommending a “yes” vote.

The massive bill, worth more than $2 trillion, includes a $500 billion fund to help hard-hit industries and a comparable amount for direct payments of up to $3,000 apiece to millions of families.

The legislation will also provide $350 billion for small-business loans, $250 billion for expanded unemployment aid and at least $100 billion for hospitals and related health systems.

There had been some debate about whether all 430 House members, most of whom have been out of Washington since March 14, would have to return to consider the bill. That would have been difficult, given that at least two have tested positive for coronavirus, a handful of others are in self-quarantine and several states have issued stay-at-home orders.

There are five vacant House seats.

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Govt to subsidise wages of all local workers by at least 25% amid Covid-19 outbreak

SINGAPORE – Firms will receive wage subsidies of between 25 per cent and 75 per cent for all local workers as the Government makes “bolder and more aggressive moves” to save jobs and keep locals employed amid the coronavirus outbreak.

This is up from the 8 per cent wage subsidy in the Jobs Support Scheme announced in the Budget statement in February. The help will also last for nine months, instead of three, up to the end of this year.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Thursday (March 26) that a total of $15.1 billion will now be allocated to the enhanced Jobs Support Scheme, up from the original $1.3 billion package.

This is more than twice the level of support provided during the global financial crisis in 2009, he told Parliament.

“We cannot prevent an economic recession as the external health and economic situation will evolve beyond our control. But it will help us mitigate the extent of the downturn and more importantly, help save jobs, and protect livelihoods,” said DPM Heng in announcing the Supplementary Budget.

“With this support from the Government, I urge employers to do your part to hold on to your workers.”

DPM Heng announced a slew of measures to support the immediate priority of saving jobs, supporting workers and protecting livelihoods, including help for the self-employed, lower-income workers and the unemployed – measures that account for over one-third of the $48 billion Supplementary Budget.

For employed workers, the top priority is to help them stay in their jobs, said DPM Heng. While his Budget statement last month introduced the Jobs Support Scheme and enhanced the Wage Credit Scheme to preserve and enhance jobs, “the situation now calls for bolder and more aggressive moves to save jobs and keep workers in employment”, he said.

The basic cash grant of 25 per cent applies to all Singaporean and permanent resident employees, who number more than 1.9 million.

Firms in the food services sector, including hawker stalls, will receive higher support, at 50 per cent of wages. Firms in the aviation and tourism sectors – which are the worst hit by the Covid-19 outbreak – will receive 75 per cent of wages. These include airlines, hotels and operators of meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions venues.

The support will apply to the first $4,600 of gross monthly wages per local employee, which is the median wage in Singapore. Gross monthly wages include employee contributions to the Central Provident Fund (CPF).

Business owners will not receive subsidies for their own wages.

The qualifying salary was raised from the original $3,600 level to provide greater support for middle-income workers.

Employers will receive payouts in three tranches, at the end of May, July and October.

They do not need to apply for the scheme as it will be computed based on their CPF contribution data. Those eligible for higher tiers of support will be informed closer to the date of the first payout.

Enhancements to the Wage Credit Scheme, which co-funds wage increases for Singaporean employees, were announced in last month’s Budget statement

The Government’s contributions for qualifying wage increases for last year and this year were raised by five percentage points. It will pay 20 per cent of increases given last year, and 15 per cent of those given this year.

The monthly wage ceiling was also raised to $5,000, up from $4,000, for qualifying wage increases given last year and this year.

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U.S. Senate approves big rescue for struggling aviation sector

WASHINGTON/CHICAGO (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate voted late Wednesday 96-0 to give the U.S. aviation industry $58 billion in a coronavirus-rescue package, half in the form of grants to cover some 750,000 employees’ paychecks, in a badly needed lifeline for an industry facing the worst travel downturn in history.

The $2 trillion economic rescue package awards passenger airlines $25 billion in grants and $25 billion in loans, cargo carriers another $8 billion divided between loans and grants, and airport contractors like caterers up to $3 billion in grants. The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote to approve the measure Friday and President Donald Trump has promised to sign it into law.

Senate Republicans had fought what they called a give away to airlines and initially offered only loans, while airlines had threatened to start laying off tens of thousands within days if they did not get cash.

“This is not a corporate bailout; it’s a rescue package for workers,” said Association of Flight Attendants Sara Nelson, who spearheaded the idea of direct payroll grants for employees ranging from janitorial staff and gate agents to mechanics and pilots.

Reuters reported Chao worked the phones late into the night talking to air carriers about what they needed to ensure they could maintain payrolls, a person briefed on call on Tuesday that lawmakers were nearing agreement on a deal for cash grants for payroll and other employee costs, after airlines made a last-minute effort to convince lawmakers they needed the cash to prevent furloughing tens of thousands of workers.

U.S. airline shares extended a Tuesday rally on hopes for cash relief and under the bill airlines are set to get cash assistance in as little as two weeks.

Republican Senator Pat Toomey, whose party had proposed $58 billion in loans, said on Wednesday the grants were a key sticking point. He said Democrats insisted “we give away money to airlines and never get it back.”

In a win for labor, companies receiving funds cannot lay off employees before Sept. 30 or change collective bargaining agreements.

The bill has restrictions on stock buybacks, dividends and executive compensation, and allows the government to take equity, warrants or other compensation as part of the rescue package, but does not require it.

Airlines would also receive tax relief on fuel purchases and, in a move that may bring down passenger fares, a temporary suspension on ticket taxes.

As the coronavirus has spread around the world, travel demand has plummeted, with airlines drastically reducing flights and warning of more cuts to come.

Airlines keep canceling flights, borrowing money and slashing costs as demand falls.

Alaska Airlines said Wednesday it would cut its flights by 70% in April and May, while United Airlines said Wednesday would now cut 52% of U.S. flights and overall capacity by 68%. On Tuesday, 279,018 people were screened at all U.S. airport checkpoints, down 87% over last year.

Airlines accepting loans may have to ensure certain air services in order to maintain health care and pharmaceutical supply chains, including to remote communities, but other consumer and environmental protections sought by many Democrats did not make it into the bill.

Airlines and unions won crucial support for the grants from U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who worked the phones late into the night, telling lawmakers and others in the administration she was concerned about the impact of job losses and a decline in the U.S. aviation sector on competition, people briefed on the matter said.

“Without grants, airlines may be forced to choose bankruptcy over federal loans, if loan conditions are too inflexible,” Chao warned in a memo seen by Reuters.

Airlines have argued that they are key to restarting the economy once the coronavirus outbreak subsides.

U.S. airports, whose concourses have been nearly empty, are set to receive $10 billion in grants.

The government will also provide $25 billion in grants for U.S. transit systems and $1 billion for U.S. passenger railroad Amtrak, that have seen ridership fall dramatically as states ordered tens of millions of Americans to stay home and avoid non-essential travel.

Boeing Co could receive government loans under a $17 billion fund set aside for direct national security-related loans, Toomey said, adding that many companies could qualify. Boeing could also qualify under the broader $454 billion loan program.

“It is not meant to be exclusively for Boeing… You should not think of it as a Boeing allocation,” Toomey said.

Boeing had sought at least $60 billion in government loan guarantees for itself and the entire aerospace manufacturing sector. Boeing did not comment on Wednesday.

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Jeremy Corbyn stony-faced as Boris Johnson tells him to stay home in ‘retirement’ jibe

Addressing the House of Commons as he took questions on the latest coronavirus update, Boris Johnson was confronted by Jeremy Corbyn on the delay in announcing a total lockdown of the nation to prevent the spreading of the deadly virus. But the Prime Minister subtly invited Mr Corbyn to stay at home as he joked about his retirement. He said: “We will do whatever it takes to get our country through it together.

“We will beat it together but the most important advice I can give him, as he retires…

“Oh, he’s not retiring. That would be warmly welcomed by his successor!”

He continued: “The most important thing we can all do is stay at home to protect our NHS and to save many thousands of lives.”

Mr Corbyn asked about the safety of cleaners, who he said were often a “forgotten group” in society.

He also called for clarity on why the Government had not sought to buy testing kits earlier, after a leaked letter showed the PM had written to UK laboratories on Sunday.

Mr Johnson said: “I agree with him very much on what he said about cleaners.

“They are doing an extraordinary job and they deserve all the protection and support we can give them in this difficult time.

“And on testing, he is quite right that testing is vital in our success at beating the coronavirus and, as the Health Secretary has said many times, we are massively increasing our testing campaign, going up from 5,000 to 10,000 to 25,000 a day.

“In answer directly to his question, this has been a priority for the Government ever since the crisis was obviously upon us – for weeks and weeks.”

Boris Johnson has said the more that Britons conform to Government measures to tackle coronavirus, the faster the UK will get on top of the virus.

Conservative MP Adam Afriyie (Windsor) said: “Can I ask the Prime Minister, will he confirm that he will lift any of these measures imposed at the earliest possible opportunity once he knows that our nation is safe?”

The Prime Minister responded: “Yes of course and we keep them under constant review and the more the whole country is able to work together to conform with those stipulations, the faster we’ll get on top of it, the faster we’ll come out of it.”

Under pressure to set out support for the self-employed, Boris Johnson said: “I cannot in all candour promise the House that we will be able to get through this crisis without any kind of hardship at all.”

The Prime Minister told MPs: “We will do whatever we can to support the self-employed, just as we are putting our arms around every single employed person in this country.”

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U.S. senators look to quickly pass massive coronavirus bill, head home

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. senators will vote on Wednesday on a $2-trillion bipartisan package of legislation to alleviate the devastating economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, hoping it will become law quickly so they can get out of Washington.

Top aides to President Donald Trump and senior Senate Republicans and Democrats announced they had agreed on the unprecedented stimulus bill in the early hours of Wednesday, after five days of marathon talks.

“We’re going to pass this legislation later today,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

The massive bill is expected to include a $500 billion fund to help hard-hit industries and a comparable amount for direct payments of up to $3,000 to millions of U.S. families.

It will also include $350 billion for small-business loans, $250 billion for expanded unemployment aid and $150 billion for various healthcare initiatives, including $100 billion for hospitals and related health systems.

It aims to flood the U.S. economy with cash in a bid to stem the impact of a pandemic that has killed more than 660 people in the United States and sickened more than 50,000, shuttered thousands of businesses, thrown millions out of work and led states to order 100 million people – nearly a third of the population – to stay at home.

“This is not a moment of celebration, but one of necessity,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said.

The bill is expected to pass the Senate easily, more so because Senator Rand Paul, a Republican who was the only senator to vote against an earlier round of emergency virus funding, may be unable to vote after testing positive for the disease.

If passed, the unprecedented rescue package, which Schumer called the largest in U.S. history – would be the third approved by Congress this month to counter the impact of the crisis.

To become law, the measure must pass the Republican-led Senate and Democratic-led House of Representatives. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was consulted during negotiations on the bipartisan Senate deal, struck after Democrats twice blocked a measure written by Republicans.

Aides to Pelosi did not immediately respond to a request for comment on her view of the bill.

It also must be signed by Republican President Donald Trump, who said on Tuesday he wanted Americans to end “social distancing” restrictions intended to slow the spread of the virus and return to work by Easter, April 12.

That worried health officials, who fear ending the lockdown too soon could bring more virus-related deaths.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the administration point man for talks, told reporters Trump “absolutely” would sign the bipartisan stimulus agreement if it passed Congress.

Talks on the deal kept the Senate in Washington as the virus’ impact on the United States increased dramatically. Members of the House of Representatives left Washington 10 days ago.

While stuck in Washington, many senators told aides to work from home to lower the risk of contagion, Paul announced his positive test and a handful of other lawmakers self-quarantined, because they had been exposed to Paul or others with the illness.

(Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: open tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser. )

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Trump is prepared to use emergency act if needed, says VP Pence

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump is prepared to use the Defense Production Act but industry has been stepping forward, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said on Fox News on Tuesday.

He also said that the White House coronavirus task force has not discussed a nationwide lockdown, as has been done in other countries to counter the spread of the coronavirus.

Pence said during a Fox News town hall that Trump initiated the act that allows the president to mandate production, but added: “Every time we’ve asked American industry to step forward, they’ve said yes. No one has said ‘no.’”

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Pelosi sees 'real optimism' on $2 trillion U.S. coronavirus aid bill deal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrats and Republicans said on Tuesday they were close to reaching a deal on a $2 trillion coronavirus economic stimulus package, raising hopes that the U.S. Congress could soon act to try to limit the economic fallout from the pandemic.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress, said the two sides had agreed to more oversight provisions of a $500 billion fund to help hard-hit businesses, resolving a key sticking point.

“I think there is a real optimism that we could get something done in the next few hours,” Pelosi told CNBC.

Steven Mnuchin, President Donald Trump’s treasury secretary, said a deal could come later in the day as he returned to the Capitol for more talks on Tuesday morning.

“We’re looking forward to closing a bipartisan deal today. The president wants us to get this done today. We’re down to a small number of issues,” Mnuchin told reporters.

Democrats have twice blocked attempts to advance the bill, saying it did not provide enough money for states and hospitals, lacked sufficient aid for unemployed Americans and did not include adequate supervision of a massive fund to aid big businesses.

Those concerns appear to have been addressed.

“I’m very optimistic that there will be a deal announced this morning,” Democratic Senator Chris Coons said on MSNBC.

Wall Street jumped at the open on Tuesday as signs that Washington was nearing a deal on the rescue package gave a shot of optimism to markets reeling under the biggest selloff since the global financial crisis more than a decade ago.

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  • McConnell says lawmakers very close to a deal on coronavirus bill

Trump’s administration has launched a major push for action to try to blunt the economic impact of the pandemic and steep stock market decline, after he spent weeks dismissing the risks.

The Senate is due to convene at 10:00 a.m. ET (1400 GMT).

As talks concluded late on Monday, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said the two sides were nearing an agreement and he expected that the legislation would be voted up on Tuesday.

Republicans, Democrats and top Trump aides had negotiated for days over the package, which would be the third and largest passed to address the crisis if it is backed by both the Republican-majority Senate and Democratic-majority House of Representatives.

“Congress must approve the deal, without all of the nonsense, today. The longer it takes, the harder it will be to start up our economy,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

To become law, the measure must be passed by the Democratic-led House and Republican-led Senate before being signed by Trump. Mnuchin said he had spoken with the Republican president at least 10 times during the marathon negotiating session on Monday.

The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 550 people in the United States and sickened more than 43,800, shuttered thousands of businesses, thrown millions out of work and led state governors to order about 100 million people – nearly a third of the nation’s population – to stay at home.

Pelosi has introduced her own $2.5 trillion counterproposal that also includes $4 billion that would allow states to conduct the November presidential and congressional elections by mail.

That legislation would likely be irrelevant if a bipartisan deal is forged in the Senate.

While details of the emerging bipartisan bill were not available, it is expected to provide financial aid for Americans out of work because of the virus and help for struggling industries such as airlines.

Republicans normally hold a slim 53-47 majority in the Senate, meaning they need Democratic support to garner the 60 votes required to advance most legislation.

But the coronavirus has affected their ranks, giving Democrats even more leverage. Republican Senator Rand Paul has tested positive for coronavirus and four other Republicans are also unable to vote because they were exposed to Paul or others with the virus.

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