Coronavirus Bill Stalled
The massive bill meant to prop up the economy amid the escalating coronavirus epidemic remained stalled Tuesday in the U.S. Senate.
Although Senate leaders said repeatedly in the earlier part of the day that the roughly $2 trillion package was nearing the end zone, it hadn't materialized by 9:30 at night.
Several sources said there were a number of snags, including over abortion restrictions, the amount of money to be spent for supplemental nutrition and for stabilizing states, as well as disagreement on the level of oversight that would be exerted on loans and grants doled out by the Trump administration and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Mnuchin had been shuttling around the Capitol for much of the day, meeting often with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, attempting to cobble together a deal that all sides could live with.
Early on, senators from both sides of the aisle took to the floor to complain about the other.
Republicans accused Democrats -- and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi specifically -- of trying to lard up the bill with a "wish list" of left-leaning Democratic priorities.
Democrats countered that they were trying to ensure enough help got to enough people, while making sure there was vigorous oversight of any money spent or loaned to bailout corporations. They also insisted they were trying to aim more money more directly to hospitals and others on the frontlines of the crisis.
But eventually, the floor was left empty for hours, until Sen. Lindsey Graham took up a microphone to demand that talks end, accusing of stringing things out, and trying to jam more and more items into the legislation.
"So here's the state of play: if you're a nurse, a doctor, and you're running out of supplies, there is a lot of money in this bill that will help you," Graham said. "We just need to pass the damn bill."
He then called for the White House to get tough on Dems.
"Mr. President, in case you're watching, tell Steven Mnuchin to come back to the White House and end negotiations," Graham said.
"I think I understand the give-and-take of life and politics, but I've been called by two good friends on the Democratic side in the last five or six hours wanting more money," Graham said. "End the negotiations. This bill is $2 trillion. there's a ton of money in this bill for people who need it. But what we're doing now is every special interest group in town is trying to get a little bit more -- nickeling and diming at a time when people are dying, literally dying."