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Schumer hopes to restart talks on new relief legislation

Schumer hopes to restart talks on new relief legislation
© Bonnie Cash

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerCapitol insurrection fallout: A PATRIOT Act 2.0? Schumer calls for DOJ watchdog to probe alleged Trump effort to oust acting AG Student loan forgiveness would be windfall for dentists, doctors and lawyers MORE (D-N.Y.) spoke Friday with Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinPence delivers coronavirus task force report to Biden Treasury imposes additional sanctions on Cuba over allegations of 'serious human rights abuse' Treasury Department sanctions inner circle of Russian agent Derkach for election interference MORE and said he hopes to relaunch talks on a new coronavirus aid package that stalled in the Senate on Thursday. 

Mnuchin helped negotiate the first three coronavirus packages passed by Congress and signed into law by President TrumpDonald TrumpNYT: Rep. Perry played role in alleged Trump plan to oust acting AG Arizona GOP censures top state Republicans McCain, Flake and Ducey Biden and UK prime minister discuss NATO, multilateralism during call MORE.

"He agreed to pursue bipartisan talks with the leadership of House and Senate Democrats and Republicans on interim Emergency Coronavirus Relief legislation. There’s no reason why we can’t come to a bipartisan agreement by early next week," Schumer said in a statement.

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If leadership and the administration is able to get a deal, the Senate is scheduled to briefly be in session on Monday and Thursday next week, giving them two shots at passing an agreement.

The talk of a quick deal comes after the Senate blocked two plans to provide $250 billion in new small-business aid on Thursday amid a stalemate over the scope of the package.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden leans on Obama-era appointees on climate Kentucky Republican committee rejects resolution urging McConnell to condemn Trump impeachment Calls grow for 9/11-style panel to probe Capitol attack MORE (R-Ky.) tried to pass a bill that only included the small-business money, while Democrats wanted to add in an additional $100 billion for hospitals, $150 billion for state and local governments and an expansion of food assistance. Neither plan passed amid the partisan stalemate.

Democratic senators said after the floor drama that they would continue trying to negotiate. 

“I’ve talked to Schumer about a dozen times in the last 12 hours and I think he is optimistic that we can reach some degree of comity,” Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinSenators introduce bill to award Officer Goodman the Congressional Gold Medal Democrats float 14th Amendment to bar Trump from office Romney calls for Senate to pass sanctions on Putin over Navalny poisoning MORE (D-Md.) told reporters on Thursday.

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Cardin noted that he and Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: Intelligence agency gathers US smartphone location data without warrants, memo says | Democrats seek answers on impact of Russian hack on DOJ, courts | Airbnb offers Biden administration help with vaccine distribution Intelligence agency gathers US smartphone location data without warrants, memo says Senate panel unanimously advances Yellen nomination for Treasury MORE (D-Ore.) were expected to talk to Mnuchin this week.

In addition to the funding, Democrats want part of the $250 billion for small businesses to go specifically to smaller lenders.

The talks with Mnuchin come even as Republicans have slammed Democrats for blocking the new funding on Thursday. The Senate initially passed $350 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program as part of the $2.2 trillion third coronavirus relief package that Congress passed last month.

The program provides loans — which depending on the use could turn into forgivable grants — for businesses with fewer than 500 employees.

Administration officials and lawmakers quickly said that more funding would be needed as banks across the country reported a high level of interest as the coronavirus has forced businesses in wide swaths of the country to curb their activities or close altogether.

“The country cannot afford unnecessary wrangling. ... The country needs us to be nimble,” McConnell said from the Senate floor on Thursday. “My colleagues must not treat working Americans as political hostages. ... We cannot play games with this crisis."