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US Senate fails to pass vote over huge stimulus package

Washington, March 23 (IANS) The US Senate has failed to pass a key procedural vote to move forward with a huge stimulus package, thus throwing into doubt whether bipartisan agreement could quickly be found on the measure to provide relief to businesses and families amid the coronavirus pandemic in the country.

Citing “many, many problems” and “serious issues” with the current proposal put forward by Senate Republicans, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Sunday night told reporters after the vote was initially delayed to allow more time for negotiations that it “included a large corporate bailout provision with no protections for workers and virtually no oversight”, reports Efe news.

Schumer said that the “Democrats want to move forward with bipartisan agreement”, and that they were trying to resolve the differences with Republicans over the bill.

Sixty votes were required to pass the measure, but the final vote on the so-called “shell bill” to be a stopgap measure until a final deal was reached among lawmakers was just 47-47.

Although the Republicans holds a 53-47 majority in the Senate, five party senators have been sidelined at present because they were either in self-isolation due to having been in contact with a coronavirus carrier or – as in the case of Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky – were in quarantine after testing positive for the coronavirus.

Earlier on Sunday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that he was confident that Congress later in the day would reach an agreement on a huge fiscal stimulus package targeted at small businesses and families, among others, to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus.

Last week, President Donald Trump unveiled a $1.6 trillion fiscal stimulus package including sending “immediate” checks to millions of Americans, postponing the date by which taxes must be paid and assisting economic sectors hardest-hit by the coronavirus crisis – like airlines and hotels.

As of Sunday, confirmed cases and fatalities both continued to surge nationwide, reaching 33,276 and 417, respectively, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University..

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Sunday that 60 people have died and 8,000 cases have been reported, going on to paint a grim picture about the failure of the US government to deal effectively and in a timely manner with the coronavirus epidemic.

Saying that April will be “worse” than March and May worse than April, De Blasio warned that the “this is just beginning”, speaking about the need for more ventilators and other equipment to treat seriously ill patients, and he added that because of the lack of this equipment people will begin to die who otherwise would not do so.

Meanwhile, in Florida the number of confirmed coronavirus cases increased to 830 on Sunday, with 13 fatalities, the state health department reported.

The southern, heavily populated counties of Broward and Miami-Dade have 180 and 177 cases, respectively, and have been the districts hardest-hit by the pandemic, according to state health authorities, which publishes two reports each day on the situation.

The recent sharp increase in the ability to test for the virus as more testing kits have been provided by the state, and the incorporation of private laboratories into the mix for analyzing the 10,000 or so tests conducted so far have caused the number of known cases to spike in Florida.

Presently, there are 1,099 people whose health status is being monitories by authorities, given that they have either tested positive or are suspected of harboring the virus.

Over the weekend, the Food and Drug Administration authorized the emergency use of a test to diagnose in just 45 minutes, and was expected to be on the market in the coming days, specifically by March 30.

California-based molecular diagnostics company Cepheid, which developed the test, said on Saturday that the FDA had issued an emergency use authorization for the 45-minute test, to be used mainly in hospitals and emergency rooms.

–IANS

ksk/

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