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 SchumerObama says US 'desperately needs' Biden legislation ahead of key votes Congress shows signs of movement on stalled Biden agenda Schumer gets shoutout, standing ovation from crowd at Tony Awards MORE (D-N.Y.) spoke Friday with Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Biden jumps into frenzied Dem spending talks Former Treasury secretaries tried to resolve debt limit impasse in talks with McConnell, Yellen: report Menendez, Rubio ask Yellen to probe meatpacker JBS 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 TrumpJan. 6 committee chair says panel will issue a 'good number' of additional subpoenas Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Pentagon officials prepare for grilling Biden nominates head of Africa CDC to lead global AIDS response 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 McConnellFord to bolster electric vehicle production in multi-billion dollar push On The Money — GOP blocks spending bill to kick off chaotic week in congress Overnight Health Care — Presented by Alrtia — Booster shots get bipartisan rollout 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 CardinLawmakers say innovation, trade rules key to small business gains The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Biden jumps into frenzied Dem spending talks House Democrat: Staff is all vaccinated 'because they don't like to be dead' MORE (D-Md.) told reporters on Thursday.

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Cardin noted that he and Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOn The Money — House pushes toward infrastructure vote Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — EU calls out Russian hacking efforts aimed at member states Why Democrats opposing Biden's tax plan have it wrong 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."