“With regard to the bill that came over from the House, there was some discussion about whether to amend that with a bigger proposal, because we all know a bigger proposal is necessary,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said at a press conference in Washington.
“But I’ve decided we’re going to go on and vote as soon as the Senate can get permission to vote on the bill that came over from the House, send it down to the president for signature.”
Asked about senators in the Republican majority who don’t like certain parts of the bill, McConnell said: “My counsel to them is to gag and vote for it anyway.”
The great crisis requires “extraordinary measures,” McConnell said when asked why Republicans would vote for a package featuring things they might ordinarily disapprove of.
The House passed a revised bill that guarantees free testing for the new virus, which originated in China last year and causes a disease called COVID-19 that can prove deadly in some patients, primarily the elderly and those who have serious health conditions already.
“This legislation is about testing, testing, testing,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said over the weekend. “To stop the spread of the virus, we have secured free coronavirus testing for everyone who needs a test, including the uninsured. We cannot fight coronavirus effectively unless everyone in our country who needs to be tested can get their test free of charge.”
McConnell also vowed to keep the Senate in session until it passes a second bill that will include help for small businesses. That bill is being written and details can’t be disclosed yet, the senator said, but promised on Twitter that the bill would include “significant and bold new steps, above and beyond what the House passed, to help our strong nation and our strong underlying economy weather this storm.”
Senators will meet with Trump administration officials to hammer out details for the new bill before entering into discussions with Democrats, who control the House, McConnell told reporters at the press conference.
“The Senate will not leave until we’ve processed yet another bill to address this emergency,” McConnell said.
Congress passed an $8.3 billion package earlier this month that included money to bolster federal health agencies’ efforts to ramp up testing and develop a vaccine for the new virus. President Donald Trump signed the bill on March 6.
Trump said earlier Tuesday that Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary, was working with Congress on a package to provide relief from the economic fallout of COVID-19.
The plan is said to be worth at least $850 billion, though administration officials declined to commit to a number.
“It’s going to be big, it’s going to be bold, and the level of enthusiasm to get something done—I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it,” Trump said.