Gohmert, citing changes, won't block coronavirus bill

Rep. Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller GohmertNIH director: Mask politicalization may have cost 'tens of thousands' of lives in US Democrats should make the 'Bee-Gees' the face of the Republican Party GOP lawmakers call for Pelosi to be fined over new screenings 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 TrumpBiden to hold virtual bilateral meeting with Mexican president More than 300 charged in connection to Capitol riot Trump Jr.: There are 'plenty' of GOP incumbents who should be challenged 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 PelosiHouse Democrats pass sweeping .9T COVID-19 relief bill with minimum wage hike Budget Committee chair pledges to raise minimum wage: 'Hold me to it' Capitol review to recommend adding more fencing, 1,000 officers: report MORE (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinOn The Money: Schumer urges Democrats to stick together on .9T bill | Collins rules out GOP support for Biden relief plan | Powell fights inflation fears Mnuchin expected to launch investment fund seeking backing from Persian Gulf region: report Larry Kudlow debuts to big ratings on Fox Business Network MORE that he'll allow the bill to pass by unanimous consent.

"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.

"I feel an urgency to get it done right," said Sen. Mike BraunMichael BraunThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Senate ref axes minimum wage, House votes today on relief bill Biden signs supply chain order after 'positive' meeting with lawmakers Senate GOP ready to turn page on Trump 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 CornynBiden pledges support for Texas amid recovery from winter storm Partisan headwinds threaten Capitol riot commission Biden turns focus to winter storm with Texas trip 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.