Coronavirus: Even emergency bills move at snail's pace in Washington

Coronavirus: Even emergency bills move at snail’s pace in Washington

Donald Trump might not get a bipartisan coronavirus stimulus measure for several days, with the Senate working through some final kinks and the House likely to need debate time on the floor.

Four Republican Senators are threatening to delay a vote in the upper chamber on that nearly $2tn measure, saying there is a “drafting error” they say would give incentives to workers to seek unemployment benefits, which would be increased under the package. One of the members, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, told reporters the bill, as written, said its provisions could allow someone to be laid off and make more by receiving government assistance.

“If the federal government accidentally incentivises layoffs, we risk life-threatening shortages in sectors where doctors, nurses, and pharmacists are trying to care for the sick, and where growers and grocers, truckers and cooks are trying to get food to families’ tables,” Mr Graham and the GOP senators said in a joint statement.

But they said the change should be a “simple” fix, and no Senate sources contacted indicated they Republican quartet can do anything more than delay a final vote in that chamber.

Across the Capitol, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said the House likely will have to move the bill after allowing some floor time for debate. That will further delay when it arrives at the White House, where Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham says Mr Trump will sign it into law. But when a reporter floated a Friday floor debate and vote in the House, Mr McCarthy appeared did not chase him off such a scenario.

The California Republican noted some House members are under quarantine, such as ones in the New York City area and others, and would not be able to come back for a recorded roll call vote. Saying he has been on the phone with his GOP members all day, Mr McCarthy said he doubts the House could send the bill to Trump by adopting it very quickly via unanimous consent — likely during a session with a mostly empty chamber.

Instead, Mr McCarthy said some floor debate is likely with some unknown number of members coming to the floor to make statements prior to a voice vote.

The GOP leader said he expects the measure will pass both chambers and eventually be signed into law. Such process and drafting issues typically hold up major legislation, but rarely sink such bills.

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