Collins blasts Democrats for blocking coronavirus stimulus plan, says they’re ‘playing with fire’
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Senate Democrats late Sunday blocked a GOP-backed $1.3 trillion coronavirus rescue package as five Republicans watched helplessly from self-quarantine, prompting U.S. stock futures to dive and sowing fresh doubt the parties can forge an agreement as the nation descends into economic disaster.
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Democrats insist that President Trump and Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., are using the funds to put corporations ahead of families. The attempt to advance the legislation stalled in a 47-47 vote. Sixty votes were needed to pass.
Many Americans are facing unforeseen hardships after the coronavirus outbreak hit the country and temporarily closed businesses. The stimulus was championed by Trump, who said Saturday that the package was very close to being a done deal.
McConnell blasted his Democrat colleagues and accused them of being influenced by Sen. Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
"I want everybody to fully understand if we aren't able to act tomorrow, it will be because of our colleagues on the other side continuing to dicker when the country expects us to come together and address the problem," McConnell said on the floor.
Democrats risk being portrayed by Trump as politically bent on stopping him at any cost. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said the move by Democrats is "irresponsible and unwise."
"They are playing with fire," she said, according to the New York Times.
McConnell’s office said early Monday that three votes are expected later Monday after his remarks at around noon.
The Sunday vote came while at least five GOP senators were in self-quarantine, including Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who became the first U.S. senator to announce he tested positive for the virus.
Many Democrats complained that the draft aid package did not go far enough to provide health care and unemployment aid for Americans, and failed to put restraints on a proposed $500 billion "slush fund" for corporations. They said the ban on corporate stock buy-backs are weak and the limits on executive pay would last only two years.
"They’re trying to advance a proposal that would be great for giant corporations and leave everyone else behind," said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Democrats also pushed for add-ons including food security aid, small business loans and other measures for workers — saying the three months of unemployment insurance offered under the draft plan was insufficient.
Schumer, the Senate minority leader, said the draft package "significantly cut back our hospitals, our cities, our states, our medical workers and so many others needed in this crisis."
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Pelosi, D-Calif., urged colleagues to "take responsibility" as Democrats prepared their own draft. The House had just returned from a weeklong recess.
After the bill failed to move forward, McConnell tore into Democrats, accusing them of backing out of a bipartisan agreement once Pelosi and Schumer intervened. He claimed Pelosi took "a week off" and "poured cold water on the whole process."
"She's the Speaker of the House, not the Speaker of the Senate," McConnell said, according to Politico. "We were doing just fine until that intervention."
Schumer was in touch with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin late into the night Sunday to negotiate the plans. Their last meeting was at 11: 45 p.m. inside Schumer’s officer in the Capitol.
We’re closer now than we were in the past 48 hours to an agreement, Schumer said. “Can we overcome the remaining disagreements in the next 24 hours? Yes. We can and should.”
Earlier, Mnuchin told “Fox News Sunday” that he was looking forward to wrapping up the package on Sunday.
He said that the government will provide direct deposits, with an average family of four receiving approximately $3,000, as well as “enhanced unemployment insurance” for those laid off due to the outbreak.
The fourth part, Mnuchin said, is “a significant package working with the federal reserve, which will provide “up to $4 trillion of liquidity that we can use to support the economy.”
“The U.S. economy is strong. We’ve stopped major parts of it, but when we get through this virus, as I’ve said, I think you’re gonna see the U.S. economy come back to the strength, we have great companies, we have great workers," he said. "What we need to do is have a bridge to get through this. And this isn’t the financial crisis that’s gonna go on for years.”
Fox News' Ronn Blitzer and the Associated Press contributed to this report