Capitol Report: Senate passes House’s coronavirus relief bill, turns its focus to broader stimulus

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Money & Politics reporter

The Senate on Wednesday voted 90-8 to approve a House-passed coronavirus bill that targets paid leave and testing, as lawmakers and the Trump administration already are looking ahead to other, broader measures that could stimulate the U.S. economy and help workers.

“We’re going to pass the House’s bill, but its imperfections will just make our more comprehensive package even more urgent,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in a speech on the Senate floor on Wednesday before the vote. The Kentucky Republican made a similar point on Tuesday, telling his colleagues to “gag and vote for it anyway even if they think it has some shortcomings.”

As Americans practiced social distancing because of the virus, McConnell told senators to avoid “gaggles of conversation” while voting on Wednesday.

The bill — which now has been passed easily by the Democratic-led House and GOP-run Senate — aims to provide paid leave for a range of people affected by the novel coronavirus causing the disease COVID-19 and free testing for the disease, among other measures. It’s called the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, and President Donald Trump is expected to sign it into law. Meanwhile, the broader stimulus package could cost $1 trillion or more, and it could mean sending checks to Americans as well as aiding hard-hit sectors such as the airline industry.

Related: Treasury Department proposal aims to deliver $500 billion to Americans starting in April

And see: Coronavirus update — 204,255 cases, 8,243 deaths, Trump to share FDA news

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, in his floor remarks on Wednesday morning, blasted an amendment from Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky that was delaying the chamber’s vote. The amendment to the act would have required that military operations in Afghanistan to end, and it was voted down on Wednesday afternoon, with only three senators supporting it, as other amendments also flopped.

“In a time of national emergency, this Republican amendment is ridiculous, a colossal waste of time,” Schumer said.

Paul defended his move, saying “maybe in the not-too-distant future, our children may not even be able to borrow their way out of a crisis,” because “we will have been profligate fools with our resources” and refused to prioritize “truly vital” spending on virus relief and research over “extraneous” outlays.

U.S. stocks

SPX, -5.18%

DJIA, -6.30%

closed sharply lower on Wednesday and have been hammered repeatedly this month by coronavirus-related worries.

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