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Where Senate negotiations on the next COVID-19 relief bill stand

As the global spread of the novel coronavirus accelerates, over a fifth of the world’s population is being asked to stay home. More than 35,000 cases and at least 400 deaths are confirmed in the U.S. Meanwhile, Congress is struggling to come to agreement on a bill to provide economic relief to Americans in the pandemic’s wake. Amna Nawaz reports and Lisa Desjardins joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The World Health Organization is warning tonight that the coronavirus is accelerating.

    More than a fifth of the global population has now been ordered or urged to stay home, including in a growing number of U.S. states. Overall, the U.S. has 35,000 cases, with more than 400 deaths. and military field hospitals are heading to New York and Seattle.

    Amna Nawaz begins our coverage.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    The week began with an urgent warning from the U.S. surgeon general:

  • Surgeon General Jerome Adams:

    I want America to understand, this week, it's going to get bad. And we really need to come together as a nation. Right now, there are not enough people out there who are taking this seriously.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    The true scope of infection remains unknown, and is expected to grow as testing expands. President Trump pledged 1.4 million tests would be available this week. But, according to one independent tally, the U.S. has conducted fewer than 240,000 to date.

    Severin Schwan, the CEO of Roche, a coronavirus test developer, said today that broad testing in the U.S. could still be — quote — "months away."

  • Man:

    The motion is not agreed to.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, lawmakers working to stem the economic fallout with a bipartisan stimulus bill struggle to strike a deal, leading to appeals for urgent action.

  • Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine:

    We don't have another day.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine:

  • Sen. Susan Collins:

    Never have I seen Republicans and Democrats fail to come together when confronted with a crisis. We did so after 9/11. We did so with the financial meltdown in 2008. We don't have another minute to delay acting.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio called for Congress learn from the past and ensure money goes where it's needed.

  • Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio:

    We have to show the people we serve that we learned from Congress' mistake 10 years ago, when the banks did very well, thank you, and Wall Street again will do very well, thank you, under the McConnell plan. We have to come together to put money in people's pockets.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    That's as the first senator to test positive for the virus, Rand Paul of Kentucky on Sunday, spurred colleagues with whom he had close contact, Utah Senators Mike lee and Mitt Romney, to self-quarantine.

    As Congress hammers out a plan, an aggressive effort to keep the economy afloat by the Federal Reserve, announcing today it would buy as much government-backed debt as possible.

    And leaders at the state level continue to take drastic measures, like lockdowns, to stop the virus spread. The latest? Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin.

    A new, even more aggressive step in the United Kingdom, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued a nationwide order banning all gatherings of more than two people.

  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson:

    I must give the British people a very simple instruction. You must stay at home.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Those restrictions mirror measures taken by Germany, where today public health officials said they appear to be working.

  • Lothar Wieler (through translator):

    We are seeing signs that the exponential growth curve is flattening off slightly. I am optimistic that the measures are already having an effect, which is very early, because they have only been in place for a week.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Worldwide, though, another sobering milestone, as the total number of cases exceeds 350,000, and with the virus continuing to spread to more vulnerable populations, the U.N. secretary-general called for a global cease-fire.

  • Antonio Guterres:

    The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war. That is why, today, I am calling for an immediate global cease-fire in all corners of the world. It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    A fight that, in many corners, is only just beginning.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Amna Nawaz.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Wall Street lost more ground today, despite the Federal Reserve's latest actions. The Dow Jones industrial average slid 582 points, or 3 percent, to close at 18,591. The Nasdaq fell 18 points, and the S&P 500 dropped 67.

    Analysts say investors are waiting for Congress to act on an economic rescue package.

    And we get more now on that situation from our congressional correspondent, Lisa Desjardins.

    So, Lisa, it is not just the markets are waiting, but a lot of Americans who are out of work are waiting. What is the holdup?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Well, Judy, tonight it's been a two different views.

    One is what you see in public, which is a lot of tension and drama on the floor of the U.S. Senate. But I want to talk now about the more important view, which is behind the scenes.

    Judy, talks have been going on steadily through the day. We're told that the two sides are coming closer. Just now. Republican leaders left leadership meetings saying they don't think they will get a deal tonight, but hope remains that they could have one tomorrow.

    What is the holdup, the big question? Primarily, it is around a stabilization fund for larger companies. We're talking about $500 billion that Republicans proposed. You may see this in a graphic. And Democrats are concerned that it needs more protections for workers, that those loans need to have guarantees for the number of workers that those companies will keep on payroll.

    Democrats are also concerned about provisions that Republicans have proposed that they think give Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin more — too much leeway to give out cash to these corporations.

    So, Judy, this is the sticking point tonight. How do they come up with a deal that does protect workers in these large businesses, but which Republicans don't think is too onerous on those businesses?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Would love to know what's going on inside those negotiations.

    But, meantime, Lisa, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has come up with her own proposal for all this. What do we know about that? Is she going her own way, or what?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I will tell you what, Judy. I think, right now, this is Nancy Pelosi being a smart negotiator. Whatever passes the Senate needs to pass that House, ultimately.

    And she was so unhappy with the Senate bill that she said, I'm going to put out my own bill. She has that in reserve if she wants to vote on it. But, right now, I think this is mostly a tool of negotiation for her.

    But let me show you what she's proposing. This is a $2.5 trillion deal. She would like to increase the amount of money for hospitals and for the medical care around the country. Also, she would raise those direct payment checks to Americans to $1,500 per person. The Republican proposal is $1,200.

    And then also she would increase the amount of money directly helping states, as well as for unemployment, and money to help the elections in November.

    As I say, though, this is — Pelosi, it's a large bill, 1,400 pages, but it remains to be seen if they will actually vote on this, or if this is something she's using to pressure the Senate to come more in her direction.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Lisa, as those talks in the Senate go on, you have reported today about how, on the floor of the Senate, tensions just spilled right out into the open.

  • Lisa Desjardins:


    This is what we have seen on the Senate floor. And this was over two votes called cloture. That's essentially trying to start debate on this bill, even though there is no firm bill yet in the Senate. Democrats blocked that.

    And some Republicans felt that that was completely irresponsible. That's debatable. Both sides have different views on that.

    But listen to what happened on the Senate floor when Senator Susan Collins tried to get recognized today. And then Senator Schumer, the Democrat, objected. You can hear all of this tension mount in this short clip.

  • Sen. Susan Collins:

    Mr. President.

  • Man:

    The senator from Maine.

  • Sen. Susan Collins:

    Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that proceedings under the quorum be dispensed with.

  • Man:

    Is there objection?

  • Sen. Susan Collins:

    Thank you, Mr. President.

  • Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.:

    I object.

  • Man:

    Oh, come on.

  • Sen. Chuck Schumer:

    I object.

  • Man:

    The Democratic leader objection is heard.

  • Sen. Susan Collins:

    This is unbelievable.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Hearing something like that from Susan Collins is rare, Judy. I was the only reporter in the chamber at that time. Collins walked over, pointed her finger at Schumer, got close to him, and really just unleashed at him.

    So, there is — it's a very emotional time here for most members of the Senate, tension rising even as talks try to stay calm.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, meantime, as if there's not enough going on, Lisa, the Senate is dealing with its own coronavirus crisis, if you will.

    Senator Rand Paul has now been diagnosed. And he was just in the Senate mingling with other senators yesterday.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Briefly, a lot of frustration from both parties with Senator Paul and his decisions.

    I want to show you what's happening here at the Capitol. Look at this photo. You can see everyone is distancing themselves even more. This is a huddle, a gaggle we had with Senator Joe Manchin. You can see reporters and senators staying farther apart.

    But, Judy, one note, I was watching the Senate chamber. And in the chamber, senators really are not social distancing all the time. So it is sort of as give and take. People are washing their hands. But, clearly, there's more — there's more of an understanding of the problem today than there was yesterday because of Senator Paul.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, perhaps they are all convinced that everybody else is in the clear. We will see.

    Lisa Desjardins, thank you very much. Great reporting.

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