Lawmakers express optimism about fourth coronavirus relief package

 

House Republicans expressed optimism Saturday that negotiators are honing in on a deal for a fourth coronavirus relief package. Multiple sources with knowledge of the talks told The Hill that a number of lawmakers expect to return to Washington as early next week in anticipation of movement on the legislation. 

“They are close to a deal,” one GOP lawmaker said, adding that a vote as soon as Tuesday was not out of the realm of possibility.  

While negotiators have struggled to strike a deal, one source familiar with the talks said they anticipate the agreement to include additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), funding for rural hospitals and additional testing. However, the source noted it all remains in flux. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The PPP in particular has been a focal point for the fourth coronavirus package, as the program, established to provide forgivable loans to small businesses struggling amid the pandemic, ran out money Thursday due to the large influx of applications for relief. 

But even if a deal doesn’t come together in coming days, it’s likely a sizable number of GOP lawmakers will fly back to the district in an attempt to push Democrats to bring a bill to the floor, the source said. 

“We think that Republicans are still going to come back to just try and put some pressure on Dem leadership to vote for the small business relief and get something done,” the source said. 

Democrats have also voiced that they feel they are getting closer to coming to an agreement. 

“Personally I still think Tuesday would be a tad early for us to return. I’d bet on Wed or Thurs. But we shall see,” one Democratic member told The Hill. 

ADVERTISEMENT
 
“I am pleased to report that we have been engaged in bipartisan negotiations on our interim legislation and our progress is encouraging,” Pelosi said in a “Dear Colleague” letter.
 
“We are also working on CARES 2 to prepare for the path ahead to support the lives and livelihoods of the American people.  It is recognized that the key to opening our economy is testing, treatment, contact tracing and quarantine.”

But other senior Democratic sources threw cold water on the notion of an agreement, saying Republicans should be willing to provide additional funding for state and local governments. 

“So Trump can give $30 million to a steakhouse but won’t help our overburdened states? Governors have had to step up and lead because we have a feckless empty suit in the White House. To abandon them now is unconscionable," the Democratic source said. 

Even if the negotiators strike a deal, one senior source with knowledge noted it is unlikely they will be able to pass legislation via unanimous consent, noting how Rep. Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieGaetz set to endorse primary opponent of fellow Florida GOP lawmaker The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Progress slow on coronavirus bill The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Biden VP possible next week; Meadows says relief talks 'miles apart' MORE (R-Ky.) called for Congress to come back to Washington to pass the third coronavirus relief bill. 

“I think we inevitably have to have some people there if there is a deal because Massie will object,” the source said. 

Al Weaver contributed.