Gohmert, citing changes, won't block coronavirus bill

Rep. Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller GohmertGOP-Trump fractures on masks open up Democrats start cracking down on masks for lawmakers Justice Department officials say decisions are politicized MORE (R-Texas) says he will no longer try to block House passage of an emergency coronavirus package, setting the stage for the lower chamber to send the bill to the Senate later Monday night.

Gohmert, a conservative firebrand, had vowed earlier in the day to block the legislation single-handedly, citing what he considered its harmful effects on small businesses.

After speaking with Republican leaders, including a phone call with President TrumpDonald John Trump Trump responds to calls to tear down monuments with creation of 'National Garden' of statues Trump: Children are taught in school to 'hate their own country' Trump accuses those tearing down statues of wanting to 'overthrow the American Revolution' MORE, he said he still doesn't support the package on the whole but is satisfied enough with changes negotiated Monday between Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Breaking down the June jobs report | The biggest threats facing the recovery | What will the next stimulus bill include? Military bases should not be renamed, we must move forward in the spirit of reconciliation Pelosi: Trump 'himself is a hoax' MORE (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn The Money: Breaking down the June jobs report | The biggest threats facing the recovery | What will the next stimulus bill include? On The Money: Economy adds 4.8M jobs in June | Unemployment to average 6.1 percent through 2030: CBO | Mnuchin says no regrets on pushing to reopen Treasury approves 0 million loan to company being sued for overcharging Pentagon MORE that he'll allow the bill to pass by unanimous consent.

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"There are some substantive changes that they're calling technical changes. Some of them I'd like to see go through. I think they'll be helpful keeping people in business," Gohmert told a pair of reporters in the Capitol late Monday evening.

Gohmert said he intended to go to the floor Monday night to voice his criticisms to the bill, but would ultimately withdraw his formal objection to allow the package to move to the Senate.

"Unless Mnuchin changes something else that I'm not expecting, I plan to reserve the right to object, and express my concerns, and then probably withdraw the objection," he said. "I've been here since 10 [a.m.], and there's been a lot of work done, by a lot of people to try to get this to a [better] place. But let's face it, like Obama said: 'elections have consequences.' They have the majority, so they can get more of what they want in this bill.

"So please understand, withdrawing my objection is not the same as saying I support the bill, because I still don't," he added. "It's just less bad."

Even as he spoke, Mnuchin was on the other side of the Capitol briefing Senate Republicans on the changes, in hopes of getting them on board.

Some Senate Republicans, bearing echoes of Gohmert, said they'll push for additional changes to the House bill to provide further protections for small businesses.

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"I feel an urgency to get it done right," said Sen. Mike BraunMichael BraunGridlock mires chances of police reform deal Pelosi says GOP 'trying to get away with murder' on police reform bill GOP senator introducing bill to scale back qualified immunity for police MORE (R-In.). "A few more days is not going to hurt to get out a better version."

Yet Senate GOP leaders, wary of a prolonged fight over the emergency relief bill amid a worsening coronavirus crisis, seemed ready to take up the amended House bill — as long as Mnuchin and Trump were on board. Additional changes, they said, can be made in the next round of emergency relief surrounding the fast-moving pandemic.  

"People need to know that there's going to be another opportunity to legislate after we take up the House bill," said Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenators push foreign media to disclose if they are registered as foreign agents GOP senators debate replacing Columbus Day with Juneteenth as a federal holiday New legislation required to secure US semiconductor leadership MORE (R-Texas). "Maybe that will relieve some of the pressure and desire to amend that."

Cornyn's remarks came shortly after the Senate vote to approve a short-term extension of the government's most contentious surveillance powers, which had expired on Sunday. That bill heads next to the House, where it could meet a one-man road-block: Louis Gohmert, who left open the possibility that he would stage a protest similar to that surrounding the coronavirus bill, and prevent it from moving by unanimous consent.

"Depends on whether we're open to having some additional reforms in there," he said. "Cause I would rather not have one than to go forward with the lack of reforms that are currently missing."

Asked if he would be in the Capitol Tuesday, when the bill may reach the House floor, Gohmert was terse.

"Well, I may need to," he said.