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► Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says the Senate is moving “at warp speed” (which is about “half-speed” in regular person parlance) on producing a massive stimulus bill in response to the Coronavirus outbreak. As CNN reports:
Two GOP sources told CNN’s Manu Raju that Republican senators are close to reaching an agreement among themselves on the details of Mnuchin’s plan. The conference plans to meet later on Wednesday to discuss where they stand, with one of the sources expecting an agreement by lunchtime.
The idea is to cut a deal among themselves, and then try to hammer out a bipartisan agreement with Democrats on a massive package that could pass Congress in a matter of days. But Democrats have their own plans, so there are hard-fought negotiations ahead.
The bill McConnell is talking about would be the third major piece of federal legislation to move through Congress this month:
The first bill, which started in the House, passed the Senate, and was quickly signed by President Trump, dealt primarily with medical and emergency response needs. This was the bill that was opposed by only two House Members, one of who was Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley). In the Senate, only Kentucky Republican Rand Paul voted “NO.”
The second bill, which also started in the House, deals with issues like paid family leave and Coronavirus testing and health care regulations (Rep. Buck also voted against this bill). McConnell is pushing the Senate to vote on the legislation this week — though Sen. Rand Paul is again throwing wrenches — and it will almost certainly be signed by President Trump shortly thereafter. Outside groups have been pressuring Republican Senators to quickly support this legislation.
This is the trillion-dollar “bailout” bill that will likely include sending money directly to Americans within the next couple of weeks. Politico has more on this third major piece of legislation:
Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) said Tuesday there is a “high level of interest” among Republicans for a Trump administration proposal to send as many as two $1,000 checks directly to individual Americans to help respond to the economic slowdown, a move that could cost an estimated $500 billion, according to GOP sources.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin made a pitch for the initiative at a lunch with Senate Republicans on Tuesday, part of an $800 billion-plus package being floated by the White House that also includes as much as $250 billion in emergency loans for smalls businesses being hit by the economic slowdown.
Under the Mnuchin plan, direct payments — on a means-tested basis — could be sent to American via the IRS as early as next month, although even that may not be as fast as some in Congress want.
For more on these bills and a host of other Coronavirus-related questions, check out this interview from Tuesday with Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County) on The Get More Smarter Podcast:
► Two members of Colorado’s congressional delegation are in self-quarantine after being alerted that they may have had contact with an infected person. From The Denver Post:
U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and U.S. Rep. Jason Crow both announced Tuesday that they’re self-quarantining after coming into contact last week with a constituent who subsequently was found to have the coronavirus.
It’s not clear if it was the same constituent, but the contact was on the same day — March 11 — and both men were notified of the contact by the same health department.
“I was alerted today by the Tri-County Health Department that a Coloradan who visited my Washington office for a constituent meeting has tested positive for coronavirus,” Gardner, a Yuma Republican, said in a press release.
“While I am not showing any symptoms at this time, I have made the decision to self-quarantine out of an abundance of caution,” he added.
Crow is also not reporting showing any symptoms but is self-quarantining for precautionary reasons.
► President Trump is finally getting his border shutdown…with Canada. The United States and Canada have agreed to close the border to all non-essential travel.
If you’re looking for political news that isn’t about Coronavirus, it’s available right after the jump…