Trump urges Republicans to go for ‘higher numbers’ on coronavirus relief

By Susan Cornwell and David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Trump urged his fellow Republicans Wednesday to go for “much higher numbers” in a coronavirus aid bill, as a stalemate continued in Washington over whether to approve more economic relief from the crisis ahead of Nov. 3 elections.

The Senate’s number two Republican, John Thune, reacted cautiously to Trump’s appeal on Twitter.

The standoff dates to mid-May, when the Democratic-majority House of Representatives approved $3.4 trillion in new aid, including unemployment benefits, money for schools, the U.S. Postal Service, and testing.

The Senate’s Republican leaders countered with a $1 trillion plan, but some of their own members balked at that. Last week they put a $300 billion bill up for a vote that Democrats blocked as insufficient.

“Go for the much higher numbers, Republicans, it all comes back to the USA anyway (one way or another!)” Trump wrote on Twitter Wednesday.

Congress and the White House approved more than $3 trillion worth of coronavirus relief measures earlier this year.

Thune, speaking after Trump’s tweet, said proposals had to stay in a “realistic” range. Noting the original $1 trillion Senate Republican plan, he said: “As you go upwards from there you start … losing Republican support pretty quickly.”

A $1.5 trillion compromise floated Tuesday by the House Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group of dozens of centrist lawmakers, was attacked by members of both parties, including leading House Democrats. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, however, said it deserved consideration.

Thune said there was some Republican interest in the $1.5 trillion package, but that the $500 trillion it included in aid for state and local governments would be hard for Republican senators to swallow. Meadows told reporters Wednesday that the state and local issue was probably the biggest obstacle to a deal.

Another Republican senator said Wednesday he thought a deal of around $1.5 trillion or $1.7 trillion was possible.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has offered to drop her aid demand to about $2.2 trillion. She faces growing pressure from moderate Democrats to take another vote on COVID-19 relief, but told MSNBC Wednesday that the way forward depends on the willingness of the White House to accept a bill large enough to address the severity of the coronavirus pandemic.

“What we want is to put something on the floor that will become law. And so that requires a negotiation,” she said. “We think they (the White House) should come to the table.”

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell and David Morgan; additional reporting by Alexandra Alper; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

U.S. Republicans to unveil coronavirus aid proposal as time runs out on jobless benefits

By Susan Cornwell and David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Republicans on Monday are expected to unveil a $1 trillion coronavirus aid package hammered out with the White House, a starting point for negotiations with Democrats as unemployment benefits that have kept millions of Americans afloat are set to expire.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told reporters on Sunday that the plan just needed a few clarifications before Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could unveil it on Monday afternoon.

Meadows and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said their agreement in principle with Senate Republicans would include an extension of supplemental unemployment benefits that aims to replace 70% of laid off workers’ lost wages.

On Friday, an extra $600 per week in supplemental unemployment benefits is due to expire, severing a financial lifeline for laid-off workers and a key support for consumer spending.

But the extra funds – in some cases exceeding a workers’ former wages – was a sticking point for many Republicans, helping to delay agreement during a week of wrangling over the party’s negotiating position.

Some Republicans had complained about the high price tag; the federal government has already spent $3.7 trillion to cushion the economic blow from pandemic-forced shutdowns.

Mnuchin and Meadows earlier on Sunday floated the idea of a piecemeal approach to coronavirus aid, first addressing unemployment and demands by businesses and schools to be shielded from coronavirus-related lawsuits, while tackling other issues later.

“We are going to be prepared, on Monday, to provide unemployment insurance extension that would be 70% of wages,” Meadows said on ABC’s “This Week” program on Sunday.

DEMOCRATS’ DEMANDS

Democrats decried the Republican delay as U.S. coronavirus cases passed the 4 million mark, a milestone for a pandemic that has killed more than 146,000 people in the United States and thrown tens of millions out of work.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday that if necessary, the House would stay in session until a deal is passed and added that Democrats would not accept a measure urged by Republicans to include liability protections for employers.

“What we will not support is what they’re saying to essential workers: ‘You have to go to work because you’re essential, we place no responsibility on your employer to make that workplace safe and if you get sick you have no recourse because we’ve given your employer protection,'” she said.

Pelosi has said that House Democrats would pursue the $3 trillion coronavirus aid bill that they passed in May, which would extend the extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits through the end of 2020.

The Republican plan will include another round of direct payments of $1,200 for individuals, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told CNN. He said it also would extend a federal moratorium on housing evictions contained in previous relief legislation.

Senate aides said the Republican plan also have more help for small businesses, $105 billion for schools, $16 billion for coronavirus testing, and legal protections for business that are reopening.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell and David Lawder; Editing by Peter Cooney and Gerry Doyle)

‘Wear a mask!’ Republicans change tune as COVID-19 surges

By Doina Chiacu

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican lawmakers are making a public push for face coverings, splitting with mask-averse U.S. President Donald Trump on the issue as COVID-19 cases surge in some Republican-leaning states.

The top Republican in the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, said on Monday every American has a responsibility to follow recommendations to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“They should wear a mask,” McCarthy told CNBC after his home state of California began to roll back efforts to reopen the economy. “If you cannot social distance, you need to be wearing a mask and you need to be respectful to one another.”

Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, where cases are spiking, posted a similar message on Twitter.

“I am encouraging everyone to WEAR YOUR MASKS!” he said.

While a number of Republican politicians have donned masks themselves, some have shied away from insisting Americans cover their faces in public, saying it was a matter of personal choice.

That began to change as coronavirus cases nationwide soar to record levels day after day, prompting Republican-led states like Texas and Florida to re-impose restrictions, such as closing recently reopened bars.

Vice President Mike Pence encouraged Americans to wear masks during a visit to Texas on Sunday.

In one of the more compelling images, U.S. Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming on Friday tweeted a photo of her father, Republican former Vice President Dick Cheney, wearing a surgical mask with the hashtag #realmenwearmasks.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

U.S. Senate heads for showdown over Republican police reform bill

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate headed for a showdown on Wednesday over a Republican police reform bill that Democrats have rejected as too limited to rein in police misconduct, as public protests continue over George Floyd’s death.

The bill, crafted by the Senate’s only Black Republican, Senator Tim Scott, must garner 60 votes to move forward in the 100-seat chamber. But Republicans control only 53 votes, and Democrats have vowed to oppose the measure while urging talks on a new bipartisan measure.

“It will never get 60 votes,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer vowed on Tuesday. “We need a bipartisan bill and a process to get there. That’s when we will move a bill.”

The Congressional Black Caucus, which represents more than 50 African-American lawmakers, called on senators to oppose the Republican measure, calling it “a completely watered-down fake reform bill.”

A vote is expected around midday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has pledged to take steps to allow additional votes on the measure. But Republicans warn that a failed vote could mean a political stalemate.

“This is more about campaign rhetoric and presidential elections,” Scott said of Democrats’ opposition.

Floyd’s May 25 death in Minneapolis, after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, sparked weeks of protests and stirred strong U.S. public sentiment for stopping excessive force by police, especially against African Americans.

But a month later, Republicans and Democrats in Congress are pursuing partisan bills with little chance of winning approval from the Senate and the House of Representatives and being signed into law by President Donald Trump.

As the Senate moves to vote on the Republican bill, a House committee on Wednesday will debate rules for a Thursday vote on more sweeping Democratic legislation that Republicans warn would undermine American law enforcement.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Jonathan Oatis)

George Floyd’s brother decries ‘a modern-day lynching’ in testimony to Congress

By David Morgan and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – George Floyd’s younger brother took his grief to the U.S. Congress on Wednesday with an impassioned plea that lawmakers not let his brother’s death be in vain, lamenting that he “didn’t deserve to die over $20” in what he called a lynching.

The House of Representatives Judiciary Committee held the first congressional hearing to examine racial injustice and police brutality following George Floyd’s May 25 death after a Minneapolis policeman knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. His death prompted a wave of protests in U.S. cities and abroad.

“They lynched my brother. That was a modern-day lynching in broad daylight,” Philonise Floyd, 42, of Missouri City, Texas, near Houston, told the committee, his voice breaking with emotion.

“His life mattered. All our lives matter. Black lives matter,” he added, wiping away tears.

The Democratic-led House is moving forward with sweeping reform legislation that could come to a vote by July 4, while Senate Republicans are crafting a rival plan.

George Floyd, a 46-year-old Houston native who had worked security at nightclubs, was unarmed when taken into custody outside a market where an employee had reported that a man matching his description tried to pay for cigarettes with a counterfeit bill.

“George wasn’t hurting anyone that day. He didn’t deserve to die over $20. I’m asking you, is that what a black man’s worth? $20? This is 2020. Enough is enough,” his brother said. “It is on you to make sure his death is not in vain.”

He buried his brother on Tuesday and described how they had not been able to say goodbye.

“I’m here to ask you to make it stop. Stop the pain,” Philonise Floyd testified. “George called for help and he was ignored. Please listen to the call I’m making to you now, to the calls of our family and the calls ringing on the streets of all the world.”

It is unclear whether Democrats and Republicans will be able to overcome partisan differences to pass legislation that President Donald Trump would be willing to sign.

Several Republicans pledged cooperation and voiced support for a pivotal provision that would scale back so-called qualified immunity protections that shield police from lawsuits by people suing for damages.

White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany, who said the Republican president may take policy action on race and policing through an executive order, called reduced qualified immunity a “non-starter.” McEnany said Trump’s administration has nearly finalized plans to address police brutality that could be made public within days.

Police officer Derek Chauvin was fired after the incident and charged with second- and third-degree murder and manslaughter. George Floyd and Chauvin worked as security personnel at the same nightclub.

Philonise Floyd said Chauvin knew his brother and killed him with premeditation “just because he didn’t like him,” adding that “it has to have something to do with racism.”

The emotionally-charged hearing had lawmakers and witnesses including several civil rights advocates expressing sorrow over Floyd’s death, the latest in a series of killings of African-Americans by police that have sparked anger on America’s streets and fresh calls for reforms

POLITICAL DIVIDE

The hearing highlighted divisions in Congress and the country between those who want broad changes to policing practices and those who defend the work of law enforcement and blame any problems on, as Republican Representative Mike Johnson put it, a “few bad apples.”

“The vast, vast majority of law enforcement officers are responsible, hard-working, heroic first responders,” added Representative Jim Jordan, the committee’s top Republican.

“While we hold up human rights in the world, we obviously have to hold them up in our country,” said Representative Karen Bass, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, which crafted the legislation.

Angela Underwood Jacobs, a Republican witness whose police officer brother was slain during violent protests this month, urged lawmakers to promote a just society by investing in education, housing and job creation.

The Democratic legislation would ban police chokeholds and no-knock warrants, restrict the use of legal force, require police body cameras, make lynching a federal hate crime and take other steps to rein in misconduct.

(Reporting by David Morgan and Richard Cowan; Editing by Scott Malone and Will Dunham)

Divided by COVID-19: Democratic U.S. areas hit three times as hard as Republican ones

By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – As America’s response to the coronavirus pandemic splits along partisan lines, a Reuters analysis may help explain why: Death rates in Democratic areas are triple those in Republican ones.

By Wednesday, U.S. counties that voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election reported 39 coronavirus deaths per 100,000 residents, according to an analysis of demographic and public health data.

In counties that voted for Republican Donald Trump, 13 of every 100,000 people had died from the virus.

The uneven impact reflects the disproportionate toll the infectious disease has taken in densely packed Democratic-voting cities like New York. Rural areas and far-flung suburbs that typically back Republicans have not seen as direct an impact.

The pattern holds beyond New York, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak. Democratic counties in 36 of the 50 U.S. states collectively reported higher death rates than Republican counties.

In Maryland, where the disease has killed more than 2,000 people, the death rate in the Democratic suburbs of Washington is four times higher than in the conservative counties in the Appalachian panhandle.

In Kansas, which has reported 152 fatalities, the death rate is seven times higher in the two counties that backed Clinton than in the rest of the state.

There are exceptions. Republican counties report a higher death rate in Delaware, Nebraska and South Dakota, where the disease has raced through meatpacking plants. Republican counties have been harder hit in Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota and Texas, where rates are well below the national average.

Partisan attitudes reflect the geographic divide.

A Reuters/Ipsos survey of 1,115 U.S. adults conducted Monday and Tuesday found nearly half of Democrats were “very concerned” about the virus, compared with one-third of Republicans.

Others have found Republicans more eager to lift restrictions aimed at slowing the coronavirus in the United States, which leads the world with more than 92,000 deaths and 1.54 million infections.

ARMED PROTESTS AND REFRIGERATOR TRUCKS

The contrast is especially sharp in Michigan, where refrigerator trucks store corpses in Detroit hospital parking lots, while armed men protest business restrictions at the state capitol. Sheriffs in several Republican-leaning counties have said they will not punish businesses that defy rules put in place by Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

Trump, who narrowly won Michigan in 2016, is due to visit the state on Thursday. He has pressed Whitmer to lift restrictions in hopes of reviving the economy before the November election.

Michigan counties that backed Clinton in 2016 collectively have reported 79 deaths for every 100,000 people. Counties that backed Trump have reported 25 deaths per 100,000.

Republican pollster Steve Mitchell said voters in the state were sharply split along partisan lines. Democrats are afraid they will catch the disease, while Republicans worry more about the economic damage from nationwide shutdowns that sent unemployment soaring.

“They are not seeing a high caseload in their area and they’re wondering why they’re being treated the same as the city of Detroit,” he said.

Conservative activist Michelle Gregoire said people should not change their behavior to avoid the coronavirus.

“You can’t put yourself in a bubble,” she said.

Democratic state Representative Leslie Love, whose district includes part of Detroit, said the partisan divide reminded her of the statewide response to previous problems like crack cocaine and high auto insurance rates that hit hardest in black neighborhoods.

“It is that same type of disconnect: ‘If it’s not happening to me, if it’s not in my backyard, then that’s their problem over there, and not ours,'” she said.

“It’s going to be your problem, though.”

(Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Additional reporting by Grant Smith; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Republican ex-fighter pilot claims victory in California congressional race

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republicans on Wednesday claimed victory in a special election to the U.S. Congress as Mike Garcia, a former Navy fighter pilot endorsed by President Donald Trump, said he had taken back a California seat in the House of Representatives lost to a Democrat two years ago.

Garcia jumped to a significant early lead Tuesday night over Democratic state legislator Christy Smith in California’s 25th district, the California secretary of state’s office said. It put Garcia’s share of the vote at 56 percent to 44 percent for Smith.

But Smith has not conceded as the votes of the largely mail-in election are still being tallied, and an official winner may not emerge until later this week.

The seat in the northern Los Angeles suburbs became vacant after Democrat Katie Hill last year resigned following a sex scandal.

“After seeing more results last night, it is clear that our message of lower taxes and ensuring we don’t take liberal Sacramento dysfunction to Washington prevailed,” Garcia, 44, said in a statement Wednesday.

Garcia’s “big congressional win” was heralded by Trump in a tweet Wednesday morning in which he noted it was the first time in many years (since 1998) that Republicans had flipped a Democratic congressional seat in California, a Democratic stronghold.

The early results marked a setback for Democrats coming so soon after Hill had grabbed the long-time Republican suburban turf by nearly 9 percentage points in 2018.

But the winner will have to defend the seat in a rematch in November, when the entire House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate is up for election and Trump is running for re-election.

The district has more Democrats than Republicans but the special election turnout seemed to be Republican-leaning, “which may not be the case in the fall”, said Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a newsletter on campaigns.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

Congress feuds as deal still elusive on small business coronavirus aid

By Doina Chiacu and Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Democrats and Republicans feuded on Monday over who was responsible for delay even as they worked on details of a possible $450 billion-plus deal to provide more aid to small businesses and hospitals hurt by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We could have been done yesterday, but the Democrats continue to hold up, even though we had agreed to all the numbers,” Representative Kevin McCarthy, House of Representatives minority leader, told Fox News.

President Donald Trump said on Sunday that Republicans were “close” to an agreement with Democrats, who have the majority in the House, and suggested there could be a resolution on Monday.

But there was no immediate deal on Monday morning, and the two parties took shots at one another over the holdup.

“How many more millions of (House Speaker Nancy) Pelosi’s layoffs will we have to endure before she will put people before politics?” McCarthy wrote on Twitter Monday.

Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill shot back that Democrats, who have the majority in the House, have given notice that there could be floor action on a bill as soon as Wednesday.

The legislation “could pass by unanimous consent in the House tomorrow, but you cannot control your members who want a recorded vote,” Hammill said in comments aimed at McCarthy. “The delay will be on your end @GOPLeader.”

Representative Thomas Massie, a Republican, sought a recorded vote the last time the House passed a $2.3 trillion coronavirus relief package, and has warned he may seek to block future bills from passing without a roll call vote.

Pelosi on Twitter lamented the “staggering” coronavirus death toll numbers, which have crossed 40,000 in the United States.

Representative Lee Zeldin, a Republican member of the House, said on Fox News that a bipartisan deal was looking good that would include $310 billion for a small business aid program established last month as part of the $2.3 trillion coronavirus economic relief plan.

That fund, aimed at helping small businesses keep workers on their payrolls during the economic slowdown brought on by the pandemic, has already been exhausted.

Zeldin said there would be at least $50 billion more for a separate small business loan program under the deal still under negotiation. A Democratic source familiar with the talks has said this figure was more likely to be $60 billion.

“I believe that there is a deal coming,” Zeldin said.

The Democratic source, speaking on condition that he not be named, said some $60 billion of the $310 billion was likely to be set aside for minority and rural businesses.

The Democrats also sought more funds for state and local governments and hospitals, as well as food aid for the poor. Republicans have strongly resisted these proposals, although Trump said Sunday he favored more aid for state and local governments and said that could be done at a later date.

Republican Senator Bill Cassidy said aid for states and municipalities will not be included in the package now being negotiated. Cassidy, whose home state of Louisiana has been among those hit hardest by the pandemic, told reporters on a conference call that he thought it made sense because it will too early to assess the extent of the damage in various states.

“It’s not in this package,” he said.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu, Susan Cornwell and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Lisa Lambert, David Gregorio and Jonathan Oatis)

U.S. House approves $2.2 trillion coronavirus bill, sends to Trump

By David Morgan and Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday approved a $2.2 trillion aid package – the largest in American history – to help individuals and companies cope with an economic downturn caused by the coronavirus outbreak and provide hospitals with urgently needed medical supplies.

The massive bill, also passed by the Republican-controlled Senate late on Wednesday, now goes to Republican President Donald Trump who is expected to promptly sign it into law.

Democrats and Republicans in the Democratic-led House approved the package on a voice vote, turning back a procedural challenge from Republican Representative Thomas Massie, who had sought to force a formal, recorded vote.

Massie, an independent-minded Republican who has repeatedly defied party leaders, said on Twitter that he thought the bill contained too much extraneous spending and gave too much power to the Federal Reserve. He did not speak on the House floor during the three-hour debate.

Trump called Massie a “third rate Grandstander” on Twitter and said he should be thrown out of the Republican Party.

“He just wants the publicity. He can’t stop it, only delay,” Trump wrote.

Other said he was putting lawmakers’ health at risk.

At least three members of Congress have tested positive for the coronavirus and more than two dozen have self-quarantined to limit its spread.

“Thomas Massie, this is disgusting. This is inhumane,” Democratic Representative Max Rose said on Fox News.

The rescue package – which would be the largest fiscal relief measure ever passed by Congress – will rush direct payments to Americans within three weeks if the House backs it and Trump signs it into law. It passed the Senate unanimously on Wednesday night.

The $2.2 trillion measure includes $500 billion to help hard-hit industries and $290 billion for payments of up to $3,000 to millions of families.

It will also provide $350 billion for small-business loans, $250 billion for expanded unemployment aid and at least $100 billion for hospitals and related health systems.

The rare but deep, bipartisan support in Congress underscored how seriously lawmakers are taking the global pandemic as Americans suffer and the medical system threatens to buckle.

The United States surpassed China and Italy on Thursday as the country with the most coronavirus cases. The number of U.S. cases passed 85,000, and the death toll exceeded 1,200.

The Labor Department on Thursday reported the number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits surged to 3.28 million, the highest level ever.

(Reporting by David Morgan, Lisa Lambert, Doina Chiacu, Richard Cowan, Susan Cornwell, Andy Sullivan and Patricia Zengerle; Writing by Andy Sullivan and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Jonathan Oatis)

‘Dilly-dallying around’: Testy U.S. Senate nears coronavirus relief vote

By David Morgan and Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Tempers boiled over in the U.S. Senate on Monday as lawmakers moved toward another vote on a far-reaching coronavirus economic stimulus package even though Republicans and Democrats said they were still at odds over details that had stalled the package over the weekend.

Both sides said they were close to an agreement on the massive bill, which Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said carried a $2 trillion price tag. But they remained at odds over provisions to help businesses, as well as the amount of money to provide to hospitals and state and local governments.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and several other Republicans angrily accused Democrats of trying to take advantage of the crisis to advance their political agenda with unrelated provisions. McConnell said the Senate, controlled by President Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans, would hold another procedural vote on the package after it fell short on Sunday.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks to the media after a meeting to wrap up work on coronavirus economic aid legislation, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Washington, U.S., March 22, 2020. REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert

“This is not a juicy political opportunity. This is a national emergency,” McConnell said as the Senate opened its session.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer suggested the vote would again fall short unless the measure included more guardrails to avoid misuse of the $500 billion earmarked to help struggling industries.

“Our goal is to reach a deal today and we’re hopeful, even confident that we will meet that goal,” Schumer said. He said the upcoming vote would be “irrelevant” if negotiations were not complete.

Republican Senator John Thune angrily accused the Democrats of “dilly-dallying around.”

“The country is burning and your side wants to play political games,” Thune said.

Mnuchin said the two sides made progress on Monday morning.

“We knocked off a bunch of things on the list already and we’re closing in on issues,” Mnuchin told reporters after exiting Schumer’s office. He did not give specifics.

U.S. stocks fell on Monday as the coronavirus forced more U.S. states into lockdown, eclipsing optimism from an unprecedented round of policy easing by the Federal Reserve.

The bill represents a third effort by Congress to blunt the economic toll of the pandemic that has killed at least 428 people in the United States and sickened more than 34,000, leading state governors to order nearly a third of the nation’s population to stay at home and putting much business activity on hold.

The measure includes financial aid for ordinary Americans, small businesses and critically affected industries, including airlines.

Republicans said Democrats were seeking to add unrelated provisions, such as expanded tax credits for wind and solar power and increased leverage for labor unions.

Democrats said Republicans were also trying to add provisions that would exclude nonprofit groups from receiving small-business aid, and extend a sexual abstinence-education program that is due to expire in May.

The speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, released her own version, which would add billions of dollars to help states conduct elections by mail.

Republicans normally hold a slim 53-47 majority in the chamber, short of the 60 votes they need to advance most legislation.

But the coronavirus threat has affected their ranks. Republican Senator Rand Paul said he tested positive for the virus on Sunday, and several others have self-quarantined as a precautionary measure. Republicans only mustered 47 votes in a procedural vote on Sunday.

(Reporting by David Morgan and Andy Sullivan; Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell; Writing by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Scott Malone, Will Dunham and Jonathan Oatis)