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Senate fails to agree to $1.8 trillion COVID-19 relief

U.S. President Donald Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, joined by members of the Coronavirus Task Force, field questions about the coronavirus outbreak in the press briefing room at the White House on March 17, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Democrats have called an aspect of the GOP bill a “slush fund” that would give Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (center) the ability to help industries without transparency. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

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For the second day in a row, Congress has failed to reach an agreement over a nearly $2 trillion economic aid package as businesses across the country shutter and lay off their workers.

In a 49-46 vote, Senate Democrats blocked the bill on Monday, which would have needed 60 votes to move forward.

Democrats had previously rejected the GOP’s plans on Sunday in a 47-to-47 vote over concerns that the package prioritized bailouts for big companies over worker protections and that it failed to take into account hospitals and health care workers. Five Republican senators are in self-quarantine and have been unable to participate in these key votes.

The bill earmarks $500 billion to help out businesses like airlines and car manufacturers, including corporations like Boeing, which economists argue is too big to fail. That amount has been a major point of contention among Democrats, who have called it a “slush fund” and argued that it gives Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin the ability to help industries without transparency.

The GOP proposal would also send direct checks to Americans who make less than a certain threshold, with $1,200 going to adults and $500 to children.

About 281,000 Americans filed unemployment claims for the week of March 14 — a 70,000 increase from the week before. According to one estimate, 18% of U.S. workers have lost jobs or hours since the new coronavirus began to spread across America.

The steps being taken on Capitol Hill, or lack thereof, have shaken financial markets. At one point on Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average declined more than 800 points, before ultimately closing more than 580 points lower since Friday. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 dropped more than 67 points, or nearly 3%.

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