Senate

Schumer predicts Senate passage of relief bill Tuesday

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday said he believed Democrats, Republicans and the White House had a deal to provide $350 billion to a coronavirus relief small-business lending program and that the Senate could vote on the deal later in the day.

The package would also provide $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion to expand testing.

“I think we will be able to pass this today,” Schumer said in an interview Tuesday morning on CNN.

“There are still a few more i’s to dot and t’s to cross, but we have a deal,” he added.

Schumer said he, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows held a phone call after midnight to settle the issue.

“We came to an agreement on just about every issue,” Schumer told CNN.

For the legislation to become law this week, it will need to pass by unanimous consent in the Senate, where a single Republican or Democratic senator can hold it up by raising a procedural objection.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday told reporters that he didn’t know whether an agreement would be able to secure unanimous consent until he vetted it with his GOP conference. 

A GOP aide indicated that the deal would not be final until it had been reviewed and approved by all Senate Republicans.

“No deal yet,” said the aide. 

But Schumer on Tuesday sounded confident it would pass. 

“They’re still dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, but every major issue was resolved by the four of us last night, and I know that Mnuchin and Meadows were in good touch with Leader McConnell and the president,” he said. “I believe we will pass it this afternoon at 4 p.m.”

Lawmakers have been under pressure to get a deal after the Small Business Administration (SBA) ran out of money last week for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which was set up to provide loans to businesses that would allow them to maintain payroll during the coronavirus shutdown.

The new deal would send $50 billion in small-business money to the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, which provides loans directly to small businesses instead of working through banks and credit unions like the rest of the PPP money.

It will also set $125 billion for the so-called underbanked businesses such as small restaurants and nail salons that don’t have strong pre-existing relationships with banks.

The PPP had come under criticism after it emerged that larger businesses, such as Shake Shack and Ruth’s Chris Steak House, had won funding for the program. Shake Shack announced it was returning the funds it had received.

The bill does not include new money for state and local governments, a demand from Democrats that McConnell and other Republicans vigorously opposed. 

Republicans were also able to block a 15 percent increase in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that Democratic leaders had demanded. 

Democrats, however, got a win by securing billions of dollars for states to implement testing programs before reopening their economies. 

“This is one of the last things we had to hold out for. We do believe the states need money,” Schumer said of a nationwide testing program. “You need a national strategy and the president, Mnuchin and Meadows agreed to that to their credit and it will be in the proposal.”

He said Democrats would ask again for more money for states in the next coronavirus relief package, which the administration and congressional leaders expect to negotiate later in the spring.  

Schumer said he also secured what he called an important concession from the White House to let states use stabilization funds included in the CARES Act for lost revenue.

He also said Democrats got “good vibes” from Mnuchin about the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s share of disaster relief assistance in hard-hit areas.

Mnuchin on Sunday hailed the PPP and Economic Injury Disaster Loan program as crucial to helping small-business owners keep workers on payroll. 

“These two programs are unprecedented response to small businesses, which I think you know is about 50 percent of the American work force,” Mnuchin said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday.

The House is expected to pass the legislation by a recorded vote on Thursday because libertarian Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and other Republicans insisted on having a formal roll call vote. 

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told colleagues Monday that the House will hold a vote on Thursday to change the chamber rules to allow remote voting on coronavirus-relief legislation. That will require a quorum or a majority of the House to return to Washington on Thursday. 

Once a quorum is present on the Hill to change the voting rules, it can approve the interim coronavirus-relief package with a traditional roll call vote or by remote voting by proxy. 

Some Republican expected the deal to pass during a pro forma session on Thursday, the day the SBA announced its lending program had run out of money.

Instead, Mnuchin and congressional leaders spent several more days haggling, which gave vulnerable Republicans such as Sen. Cory Gardner (Colo.) a chance to go on offense by blasting Democrats for holding up small-business funding to also fund hospitals and state and local governments.

“We ran out of money in a fund that was approved unanimously two, three weeks ago and now they’re holding it up? You look at how many millions and millions of jobs have been saved by the Paycheck Protection Program and they would rather play politics,” Gardner said of Democratic leaders Monday morning during an interview on “The Hugh Hewitt Show.” 

Tags Charles Schumer Coronavirus Cory Gardner Mark Meadows Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Paycheck Protection Program Steny Hoyer Steven Mnuchin Thomas Massie
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