Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Friday that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has agreed to pursue bipartisan negotiations with House and Senate leaders to develop interim relief legislation responding to the coronavirus pandemic. If congressional leaders can make a deal over the weekend, senators may approve a measure during a pro forma session on Monday.
"I had a constructive call with Secretary Mnuchin this morning during which he agreed to pursue bipartisan talks with the leadership of House and Senate Democrats and Republicans on interim Emergency Coronavirus Relief legislation," Schumer said in a statement. "There's no reason why we can't come to a bipartisan agreement by early next week."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell attempted to usher legislation expanding funding for a program providing loans to small businesses through the Senate in a pro forma session Thursday, but two Democrats, preventing a voice vote. Democrats argued that McConnell's interim proposal did not do enough to protect small businesses, and said he was trying to ram legislation through without any negotiation.
"The majority leader knew full well there was not agreement and consensus," Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland said on the floor of the Senate Thursday. "This was in fact designed to fail, designed as a political stunt."
McConnell then blocked the Democratic proposal on Thursday, and the Senate adjourned without providing additional funds for the Paycheck Protection Program.
Mnuchin on Tuesday requested Congress approve additional money for the loan program, which is designed to help small businesses keep employees on payroll and cover their bills during the pandemic. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Pelosi made further requests Wednesday for an interim legislative package in addition to the $250 billion loan expansion.
Democratic leaders want $100 billion for hospitals and health systems to support rapid testing and personal protective equipment, $150 billion for state and local governments and a 15% increase in the maximum food stamp benefit for families.
Of the $250 billion for small businesses, Democrats called for $125 billion to be specifically for, women, minority, family and veteran-owned businesses and nonprofits, and want to improve the loan program to ensure small businesses seeking loans are not rejected by banks.