U.S. Senate approves $8.3B to fight coronavirus — triple the previous plan

The Senate passed an $8.3 billion measure Thursday to help tackle the coronavirus outbreak in hopes of reassuring a fearful public and accelerating the government’s response to the virus, whose rapid spread is threatening to upend everyday life in the U.S. and across the globe.

The money would pay for a multifaceted attack on a virus that is spreading more widely every day, sending financial markets spiraling again Thursday, disrupting travel and potentially threatening the U.S. economy’s decade-long expansion.

Thursday’s sweeping 96-1 vote sends the bill to the White House for U.S. President Donald Trump’s signature. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., cast the sole “no” vote. The House passed the bill Wednesday by a 415-2 vote.

The plan would more than triple the $2.5 billion amount outlined by the White House 10 days ago. The Trump proposal was immediately discarded by members of Congress from both parties. Instead, the bipartisan leadership of the House and Senate Appropriations committees negotiated the increased figure and other provisions of the legislation in a burst of bipartisan cooperation that’s common on the panel but increasingly rare elsewhere in Washington.

“In situations like this, I believe no expense should be spared to protect the American people, and in crafting this package none was,” said Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala. “It’s an aggressive plan, a vigorous plan that has received an overwhelming positive reaction.”

Trump was sure to sign the measure, which has almost universal support. It is intended to project confidence and calm as anxiety builds over the impact of the virus, which has claimed 11 lives in the U.S.

“The American people are looking for leadership and want assurance that their government is up to the task of protecting their health and safety,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

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