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 SchumerCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Senate Democrats push to include free phone calls for incarcerated people in next relief package Trump backs plan to give airlines another billion in aid MORE (D-N.Y.) spoke Friday with Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame On The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Top Democrats say postmaster confirmed changes to mail service amid delays 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 John TrumpBiden says his faith is 'bedrock foundation of my life' after Trump claim Coronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Ohio governor tests negative in second coronavirus test 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 McConnellCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks Overnight Health Care: Ohio governor tests positive for COVID-19 ahead of Trump's visit | US shows signs of coronavirus peak, but difficult days lie ahead | Trump: COVID-19 vaccine may be ready 'right around' Election Day 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 CardinCongress eyes tighter restrictions on next round of small business help Senate passes extension of application deadline for PPP small-business loans 1,700 troops will support Trump 'Salute to America' celebrations July 4: Pentagon MORE (D-Md.) told reporters on Thursday.

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Cardin noted that he and Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Hillicon Valley: Facebook removes Trump post | TikTok gets competitor | Lawmakers raise grid safety concerns Tensions flare as GOP's Biden probe ramps up  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."