US congressional leaders close in on near-$2tn stimulus deal

Top Republicans and Democrats have indicated that they are on the verge of agreeing an almost $ 2 billion economic stimulus package to provide economic relief to taxpayers and businesses suffering from the spread of the coronavirus.

Nancy Pelosi, Democratic President of the House of Representatives, told CNBC on Tuesday morning that there was “real optimism” that an agreement would be reached “in the next few hours”.

Less than an hour later, Mitch McConnell, the main Republican in the Senate, said the negotiators were “very close” to a deal.

“It took a lot of noise and a lot of speech to get us here,” said Mr. McConnell in the Senate. “Despite all this, we are very close. We are close to a bill that takes up our audacious republican framework and incorporates other ideas from both parties.

“Time is up. The buzzer sounds, “he added. “The hour for negotiation, as if it were as usual, has expired.”

President Donald Trump also weighed in on Twitter on Tuesday: “Congress must approve the deal, without any nonsense, today. The longer it takes, the harder it will be to start our economy. Our workers will be injured! “

McConnell has been arguing with Chuck Schumer, the highest Democrat in the Senate, since Saturday over Republicans’ proposals for a huge stimulus, which would include bailouts for big companies affected by the spread of the coronavirus and “helicopter money” means-tested for American taxpayers. .

Schumer told senators shortly before noon Tuesday that he had a “very productive” meeting with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, White House legislative director Eric Ueland and the House’s new chief of staff Blanche Mark Meadows.

“Last night I thought we were on the five meter line. Right now, we’re on both, ”said Schumer. “Among the few outstanding issues, I don’t see any that cannot be resolved in the next few hours.”

Mr. Mnuchin negotiated on behalf of Mr. Trump and the White House, and Ms. Pelosi also participated in talks. The Speaker presented a $ 2.5 billion stimulus package on Monday afternoon drafted by the Democrats in the House.

Democrats argued that the Republicans’ proposals are too generous for big business, and called for limits on share buybacks and executive compensation for bailed-out companies, among other measures.

Pelosi said on CNBC on Tuesday that the Senate Democrats had done a “great job” in demanding protections for workers and increased oversight of companies that would receive bailout money.

She added that Republicans had accepted Democrats’ demands for an inspector general and a five-person congressional panel to oversee a $ 500 billion fund that would provide loans to businesses, cities and states under the plan. stimulus, including $ 50 billion for commercial airlines.

Supervision of the fund had become a key stumbling block in bipartite negotiations this weekend. Asked about the issue at a press conference on Monday evening, Mr. Trump replied, “I will be the one responsible.”

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