WASHINGTON – The US Congress is at a crossroads in the coronavirus crisis: approve a “big bailout package” as the House Speaker, Democrat Nancy Pelosi wants, or press the “pause” button as the boss prefers of the Republican majority in the Senate, Mitch McConnell.

It is a defining moment for the parties ahead of the November elections, whose decisions will affect the livelihoods of countless Americans who have become dependent on the federal government.

Billions of dollars in aid to the states, unemployment benefits and health resources are at stake. As questions about Washington’s role grow, President Donald Trump’s and Congress’ ability to do the right thing is being tested.

“They are the eternal debates of American history,” said professor of economic and financial history Richard Sylla.

“It’s like the problem Alexander Hamilton faced in 1790,” he said, referring to the plan for the new federal government to take over the debts incurred by the states during the war of independence, despite protests against the bailout. . Hamilton called it “the price of freedom.”

As negotiations continue on Capitol Hill, the coronavirus response gives Congress the opportunity to shape the country’s future after the pandemic, but at the same time carries the risk of repeating the mistakes of previous crises, as in the recession. 2008-09, which history hardly forgets.

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Trump and McConnell met late last week to decide next steps after rejecting Pelosi’s plan. The Democratic lawmaker set the stage with the approval of a $ 3 trillion bailout project, of which one trillion would be to strengthen the economies of states and cities, prevent municipal layoffs and give $ 1.2 billion to people and other forms of aid.

“We could have made it bigger,” Pelosi said in a recent interview.

With more than 38 million applications for unemployment benefits, the Republican response is to stimulate the economy to reduce the need for further federal intervention.

The Republican priority is to phase out unemployment benefits so that people return to work and give legal immunity to companies that reopen.

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Republicans want to cut the $ 500 in addition to the weekly unemployment payment, which “handcuffs” some workers to higher pay than their work. McConnell also wants to protect doctors, schools, and others from COVID-19 lawsuits, which he says is an “impassable line” for any settlement.

“There is a high probability that we will make another rescue package,” McConnell told Fox News. “We have to work smart.”

Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow acknowledged that $ 3 billion is a “big number,” but added that “the cost of inaction will be much higher.” She spoke while driving to her state, Michigan, one of the hardest hit.