Hoyer: House eyeing possible Friday vote on next coronavirus bill

Hoyer: House eyeing possible Friday vote on next coronavirus bill
© Greg Nash

House Democrats are hoping to vote Friday on the next round of coronavirus relief, Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerMexico's president uses US visit to tout ties with Trump Amy Kennedy wins NJ primary to face GOP's Van Drew House Democrat calls for 'real adult discussion' on lawmaker pay MORE (D-Md.) said Wednesday, but disagreements over the process could push it to next week.

"Hopefully we are getting closer to an agreement, but I can't guarantee that we're going to get an agreement that we can pass on Friday. That would be optimal if we could," Hoyer told reporters on a conference call.

His comments come as party leaders negotiate a fourth coronavirus relief package, which failed last week on the Senate floor over a dispute about the size and scope of the legislation.

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Republican leaders, at the request of Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinWhy Trump can't make up his mind on China Five takeaways from PPP loan data On The Money: Trump administration releases PPP loan data | Congress gears up for battle over expiring unemployment benefits | McConnell opens door to direct payments in next coronavirus bill MORE, are pushing for $250 billion in additional funding for the popular Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which aims to help small businesses stay afloat through the crisis without firing employees.

Democrats, while supporting the funding boost to the $349 billion program, are insisting that it come with stipulations protecting smaller and minority-owned shops, which tend to have more tenuous relationships with banks and other lending institutions. They're concerned the bulk of the PPP funds will go to larger businesses that have well-established relationships with lenders.

"The most vulnerable are finding it the most difficult," Hoyer said.

Led by Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSupreme Court expands religious rights with trio of rulings Congress must act now to fix a Social Security COVID-19 glitch and expand, not cut, benefits Democrats see victory in Trump culture war MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerA renewed emphasis on research and development funding is needed from the government Data shows seven Senate Democrats have majority non-white staffs Trump may be DACA participants' best hope, but will Democrats play ball? MORE (D-N.Y.), Democrats are pressing for language ensuring that at least $60 billion of the $250 billion in additional small-business funds go through Community Development Financial Institutions — nonprofits that cater to low-income communities.

"I will not allow anything to perpetuate the disparity and access to capital that exists in our country," Pelosi said Tuesday night in an interview with MSNBC's Chris Hayes. "So, when they said first-come, first-serve, ‘Oh we’re just serving the customers we know at the bank’ — what happens to our underbanked folks?"

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Democrats are also pressing for an additional $150 billion for state and local governments; $100 billion for hospitals and community health centers; and a 15 percent increase in food stamps as part of the interim package.

Hoyer said he's spoken to Republicans who support the Democrats' proposed additions — "so I don't think it's the substance of our request that seemed to be the problem," he said Wednesday.

"I think it was the process; they didn't like adding onto their request," Hoyer said. "But clearly the Congress is designed by the Constitution to provide resources that we believe are necessary, and the executive to carry it out. ... We would hope that we could reach agreement."

Adding pressure on lawmakers to reach a deal, existing PPP funding could be exhausted by the end of the week.

The Senate is scheduled to hold a pro forma session Thursday, providing a window for any agreement to move through the upper chamber, while the House has its next session scheduled for Friday.

Heading into that session, Hoyer took one option off the table, rejecting the idea that the House would adopt remote voting to move the next round of coronavirus relief — a strategy being pushed by some rank-and-file members amid concerns over travel and gathering in crowds.

"We are not going to be able to do that immediately, because we need to change the rules and we need to create [bipartisan] agreement," Hoyer said.