U.S. lawmakers close to a $2 trillion stimulus bill


(SOUND BITE) (ENGLISH) SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL, SAYING:

“The clock has run out. The buzzer is sounding.”

After days of gridlock, the U.S. Senate on Tuesday appeared to close in on a deal to pass the nearly $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package – one that would send direct payments of up to $3,000 to millions of U.S. families.

The Republican-led chamber's top Democrat, Chuck Schumer, noted that a major sticking point for Democrats – who had twice blocked the bill - had been overcome by providing more unemployment insurance.

(SOUND BITE) (ENGLISH) SENATE MINORITY LEADER CHUCK SCHUMER, SAYING:

“It has unemployment insurance on steroids. This is a great plan. What it says is if you lose your job in this crisis, you can be furloughed by your employer. That means you stay on your employer’s work list – if you have health benefits with the employer you can keep getting them. But – and most importantly – the federal government will pay your salary, your full salary, for now four months.”

The two parties also agreed to more oversight of the $500 billion set aside for big businesses. Democrats had been wary that not enough of that would be allocated for workers.

The bill also provides $350 billion for small-business loans and at least $75 billion for hospitals.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on MSNBC Tuesday that the House could unanimously pass the bill once it clears the Senate, but it might also try to change it – which would lead to further delays – before it heads to President Trump’s desk to sign.

Trump on Tuesday tweeted that, "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."