World

Senate fails to pass Bill that Dems call a corporate bailout

Republican Mitch McConnell's attempt to hold repeat vote blocked by Democrat Chuck Schumer

WASHINGTON: The US Senate's drive to pass a US$1 trillion-plus (S$1.46 trillion) coronavirus response Bill remained stymied late on Sunday, as Democrats held out for more money to help state and local governments and hospitals, while Republicans urged quick action to give financial markets a sign of encouragement.

Earlier on Sunday, the Senate failed to get the necessary 60 votes in the 100-member chamber to get the Republican plan over a procedural hurdle after days of negotiations, with 47 senators voting in favour and 47 opposed.

Later on Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, announced he would hold a repeat vote, only to be blocked by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer.

In response, Mr McConnell accused Democrats of "reckless behaviour" that could further upset financial markets and delay much-needed aid to battle the coronavirus outbreak.

But Democrats held their ground, with Mr Schumer calling the Republican plan "a giant, giant corporate bailout fund with no accountability".

As the Senate bickers, the virus has killed at least 420 people in the US and infected more than 33,000.

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Nearly one in three Americans was under orders on Sunday to stay home to slow the spread of the coronavirus as Ohio, Louisiana and Delaware became the latest states to enact broad restrictions, along with the city of Philadelphia.

The three states join New York, California, Illinois, Connecticut and New Jersey, home to 101 million Americans combined, to impose tough measures.

"Every piece of evidence that I can lay my hands on indicates that we are at an absolutely crucial time in this war and what we do now will make all the difference in the world," said Ohio Governor Mike DeWine.

"What we do now will slow this invader. It will slow this invader so our healthcare system... will have time to treat casualties."

Ohio has 351 cases and three deaths, while Louisiana has 837 cases and 20 deaths, several in a senior care facility.

Louisiana has the third highest number of cases per capita and saw a 10-fold increase in cases in the past week, Governor John Bel Edwards said.

The mayor of New York City, the epicentre of the nation's coronavirus epidemic, on Sunday described the outbreak as the biggest domestic crisis since the Great Depression and called for the US military to mobilise to help keep the healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed.

"If we don't get more ventilators in the next 10 days, people will die who don't have to die," said Mayor Bill de Blasio, as the nation's most populous city saw Covid-19 cases top 9,600 and deaths climb to 63.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo urged the federal government to take over acquisition of medical supplies so states do not have to compete with each other for desperately needed resources.

Help is not coming quickly enough, Mr Cuomo said.

"Time matters, minutes count, and this is literally a matter of life and death," he said.

"At the same time, there is not going to be chaos, there is not going to be anarchy. Life is going to go on. Different. But life is going to go on."  - REUTERS

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