Senate passes one coronavirus aid package while working on another
March 18, 2020
Richard Cowan and David Morgan
WASHINGTON, March 18 (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed legislation providing billions of dollars to limit the damage from the coronavirus pandemic through free testing, paid sick leave and expanded safety-net spending.
The bill now goes to President Donald Trump to sign into law. Congress and the White House are discussing additional stimulus measures that could cost more than $1 trillion.
Lawmakers in the Republican-led Senate largely set aside their ideological divisions, passing the legislation by a bipartisan vote of 90-8. The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives also passed the bill by an overwhelming bipartisan margin last Saturday.
The exact cost has not been tallied, but the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that the sick leave and family leave provisions alone would cost $105 billion.
Lawmakers are simultaneously trying to craft another emergency package that could cost $1.3 trillion - far more than the mammoth recession-fighting packages that Congress passed in 2008 and 2009 during the financial crisis.
That package could include two rounds of direct payments to Americans, totaling $250 billion each, according to a Treasury Department proposal seen by Reuters.