WASHINGTON (AP) - Tensions flared Monday as Washington strained to respond to the worsening coronavirus outbreak, with Congress arguing over a nearly $2 trillion economic rescue package and an impatient President Donald Trump musing openly about letting the 15-day shutdown expire.
As the U.S. braces for an onslaught of sick Americans, and millions are forced indoors to avert a spike that risks overwhelming hospitals, the most ambitious federal intervention in modern times is testing whether Washington can swiftly halt the pandemic on the home-front.
“It’s time to get with the program, time to pass historic relief,” said an angry Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as he opened the chamber after a nonstop weekend session that failed to produce a deal. “This is a national emergency.”
The White House team led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin returned to Capitol Hill for a fourth straight day of talks as negotiators narrowed on a bipartisan accord.
“We’re making a lot of progress,” Mnuchin said midday as he shuttled through the halls.
But McConnell fumed, warning Democrats - pointedly House Speaker Nancy Pelosi - to quit stalling on “political games,” as he described Democratic efforts to steer more of the aid toward public health and workers.
From the White House, Trump sounded a note of frustration about the unprecedented modern-day effort to halt the virus’s march by essentially shutting down public activities in ways that now threaten the U.S. economy.