Congress eyes new virus aid as school, health crisis deepens

Full Screen
1 / 3

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., pauses during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 15, 2020, to mark two months since House passage of "The Heroes Act" or the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON – Two months after House Democrats approved a $3 trillion COVID-19 aid package, Senate Republicans are poised to unveil their $1 trillion counteroffer, straining to keep spending in check as the virus outbreak spreads and societal fallout deepens.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is expected to roll out the GOP bill as soon as next week, said Wednesday that he conferred with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin as the White House's point man on the talks prepares to negotiate with Democrats.

But having hit “pause” in May, as McConnell put it, Republicans now face a potentially more dire situation. They had hoped the pandemic would ease and the economic fallout would reverse. Instead, coronavirus cases are spiking, states are resuming shutdowns and parents are wondering if it's safe to send children back to school.

“Regretfully, this is not over,” McConnell said during a visit to a hospital in Kentucky.

“There were some that hoped this would go away sooner than it has,” he said, urging residents to wear masks and social distance.

"The straight talk here that everyone needs to understand: This is not going away," McConnell said.

This would be the fifth virus rescue bill since spring, all told an unprecedented federal intervention to counter the times. Unlike any health crisis since the 1918 Spanish flu and an economic upheaval on par with the Great Depression, Congress is trying to engineer a comprehensive national strategy to bring the pandemic under control.

Polling shows Americans are increasingly uneasy over President Donald Trump’s handling of the virus outbreak, and lawmakers are racing to ease the health and economic crises before they, too, face voters in November.