Congressional lawmakers appeared to inch closer Monday evening to agreeing on a $2 trillion stimulus bill, as President Trump publicly wondered whether he should ease social distancing measures as a another way to rescue an economy in free fall.
As of late Monday, more than 43,600 cases had been reported across the United States, and at least 530 people have died nationwide. The day marked a grim milestone, too, as the first officials in the U.S. reported more than 100 deaths in a single day since the outbreak began.
With statewide orders to stay home spreading even further across the country, the pandemic has continued to shutter businesses and thrashed the stock markets. The Federal Reserve again announced an unprecedented set of actions, and Congress has in turn been facing steep pressure to protect an economy knocked off course.
Lawmakers’ current solution is to flood the economy with capital to revive impacted households and businesses, including direct payments to many Americans and about $850 billion in loan and assistance programs for businesses and governments.
Yet Democrats blocked the package, arguing that the bill as it stood did too much to help corporations and not enough to support workers — an argument seemingly floated at one point over the weekend by Trump himself.
“Our country wasn’t built to be shut down,” he said on Monday afternoon. “At some point, we’re going to be opening up our country. It’s going to be pretty soon.”
Even as they go against the advice of his own public health advisers, the president’s comments reflect an argument increasingly being made across the political right: No matter how many people lose their lives to the virus, millions more stand to face ruin if the economy remains effectively shut down.
On Monday, those health officials insisted that scaling back distancing measures could devastate hospitals or even allow the spread of the virus to rebound.
“We really, really need everyone to stay at home,” Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said Monday. “There are not enough people out there who are taking this seriously.”