Schumer says deal reached in Senate to boost small business loans

Washington — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Tuesday that congressional Democrats and the Trump administration have reached a deal for an interim relief package to mitigate the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, after weeks of stalemate between Democrats and Republicans in the Senate. Schumer said the Senate could approve on the measure later on Tuesday.

“There’s still a few more i’s to dot and t’s to cross. But we have a deal. And I believe we’ll pass it today,” Schumer said in an interview with CNN. He said that he and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi negotiated with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a phone call that stretched “well past midnight.”

“I know that Mnuchin and Meadows were in good touch with Leader McConnell and with the president as we went through this, so, yes, I believe we have a deal,” Schumer said, referring to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The Senate is holding a pro forma session Tuesday, and the legislation could be approved by unanimous consent. Democrats blocked an additional $250 billion in funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) earlier this month, arguing that it did not do enough to assist hospitals and state and local governments.

President Trump urged lawmakers to approve the legislation in two tweets on Tuesday afternoon.

“I urge the Senate and House to pass the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act with additional funding for PPP, Hospitals, and Testing. After I sign this Bill, we will begin discussions on the next Legislative Initiative with fiscal relief…to State/Local Governments for lost revenues from COVID 19, much needed Infrastructure Investments for Bridges, Tunnels, Broadband, Tax Incentives for Restaurants, Entertainment, Sports, and Payroll Tax Cuts to increase Economic Growth,” Mr. Trump wrote.

A senior White House adviser told CBS News Tuesday morning that the general framework for the deal is well understood by all sides, but final details on money for coronavirus testing are still being hammered out. Schumer said the deal includes funding for a national coronavirus testing program, a key demand from Democrats.

The deal would also include an expansion of funding for the PPP, which provides loans for small businesses and ran out of funds last week. While the final price tag remains unclear, negotiators on Monday were focused on allocating an additional $310 billion to the program.

Schumer said that $125 billion of the PPP funds would be specifically designated to assist unbanked, rural, and minority-owned businesses. He also said that the deal included $75 billion in additional assistance for hospitals.

Governors and Democratic lawmakers have argued that the three previous coronavirus relief packages have not done enough to help states and localities. Schumer said the interim bill does not specifically include assistance for states to make up for lost revenues, but added that the White House had committed to giving states more flexibility to use funds that have already been approved.

The Democratic leader said he hoped to address assistance for states in the fourth major legislative package to respond to the economic fallout of the coronavirus.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Monday that hospitals, schools and local governments will face 20% cuts in state aid if the federal government fails to include more funding in the next coronavirus package. Cuomo is expected to meet with President Trump at the White House today.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer sent a memo to colleagues informing them that the House could meet to take up the legislation on Thursday if the Senate passes it on Tuesday. Hoyer said he expected Republicans to block the option of approving the measure by a voice vote, meaning that a quorum of members would need to be present to pass the legislation by a recorded vote.

The House is also expected to consider a rule change which would allow remote voting by proxy, meaning that a member could cast a vote on behalf of their colleague.

Alan He, Nancy Cordes and Paula Reid contributed to this report.

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