US Politics: Senate passes historic coronavirus rescue package

The bill now moves onto the House of Representatives
Senators reached agreement in Congress after days of talks
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Senators have passed a $2 trillion aid bill to help the US economy cope with the coronavirus outbreak. Tradefair brings you the latest from US politics...

This is a wartime level of investment into our nation."

- Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell

After days of difficult negotiations, the US Senate has reached agreement on a coronavirus aid package worth $2 trillion (£1.7 trillion) - the biggest economic stimulus the country has ever seen.

There were last-minute disagreements between Republicans and Democrats over the unemployment benefits outlined in the package, but in the end the legislation received full bipartisan support, with all 96 senators voting in favour of it.

It comes as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the US continues to rise, with New York bearing the brunt of the outbreak.

'Wartime level of investment'

The bill approved in the Senate encompasses a wide range of financial provisions, including direct payments of $1,200 to American adults who earn $75,000 or less, and aid for small businesses that are struggling to pay their workers.

Outlining the key aims of the package, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said: "It will push major relief to hospitals and healthcare providers, invest in new medicines and vaccines so we can beat this virus faster, and help get more equipment and meds to the frontline heroes who put themselves at risk to care for patients.

"In effect, this is a wartime level of investment into our nation."

Chuck Schumer, the senior Democrat in the upper chamber of Congress, said the "twists and turns" on the way to finalising the bill had been "enormous", but senators had reached a "good ending".

He added that he "always had faith" that the Senate would reach an agreement, "because America and the American people demanded it".

The bill will now move on to the House of Representatives for a vote, which is expected to take place on Friday.

House speaker Nancy Pelosi said she hoped the legislation could be passed by voice vote, so members of Congress don't have to gather in the chamber to cast their votes.

America's fight against coronavirus

The US is halfway through a 15-day period of social distancing to slow the spread of coronavirus, with 19 states having issued 'stay at home' orders to their citizens.

There have been more than 69,000 confirmed cases of the virus across the US. Only China and Italy have higher numbers.

New York, the worst-affected state, has seen more than 30,000 people contract Covid-19, the novel illness caused by coronavirus.

The World Health Organization warned this week that the US could become the new epicentre of the global pandemic, owing to the rapid growth in transmission.

However, Donald Trump has indicated that he wants to restart the economy and get Americans back to normal life in the next few weeks, saying that reopening the country by the Easter weekend would be a "beautiful timeline".

The president tweeted that the media is pushing for the country to be shut down for "as long as possible in the hope that it will be detrimental to my election success".

He added: "The real people want to get back to work ASAP. We will be stronger than ever before!"

A new Gallup poll released this week showed that Trump's job approval rating was improving. Nearly half of US adults (49%) said they approved of the job he is doing as president, up from 44% earlier in the month.

In a separate POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, a quarter of voters said the president is doing an "excellent" job of handling the coronavirus pandemic and 17% said he is doing a "good" job. However, almost the same proportion (39%) said Trump is doing a "poor" job in the current circumstances.

Stocks surge

As Trump sets his sights on re-election in November 2020 - when he will probably go up against former vice-president Joe Biden, the current frontrunner in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination - he will be looking closely at how the economy and the stock markets recover from the coronavirus crisis.

Wall Street has taken a hammering over the past six weeks, with day after day of steep falls steadily wiping out the gains made since Trump took office back in late 2016.

This week, however, there have been signs of renewed strength on the markets. The Dow Jones Industrial Average surged by more than 11% between Monday and Wednesday as investors grew in confidence that the Senate was close to agreeing its economic aid package.

The Dow's point gain on Tuesday was the biggest in the index's history.

Both the Nasdaq Composite and the S&P 500 are up by more than 7% so far this week.

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