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Senate punts stalled coronavirus aid to Thursday

The Hill logo The Hill 4/13/2020 Jordain Carney
a close up of Chuck Schumer in glasses looking at the camera: Senate punts stalled coronavirus aid to Thursday © Greg Nash Senate punts stalled coronavirus aid to Thursday

The Senate on Monday punted any action on a stalled coronavirus relief bill until at least Thursday, after adjourning without taking action.

The Senate held a "pro forma" session - brief, constitutionally required meetings that take place every three days - with Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) presiding as the only senator in the chamber.

It was the first Senate meeting since Thursday when Democrats and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blocked dueling proposals to provide additional funding for a small business program that was passed as part of last month's $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill.

Monday's meeting, which lasted approximately 30 seconds, ended with neither party making an attempt to pass the stalled aid for a second time. Any attempt would likely have been blocked as leadership in both parties remain stalemated by the size of the "interim" package.

That delays any Senate action until at least Thursday when the chamber is next scheduled to be in session.

And it will push consideration of the new funding up against, and potentially past, Friday - when White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow predicted the initial $350 billion in the Paycheck Protection Program will run out.

"We're going to run out of money for the small business thing April 17. That's why we would like the Congress to help us with the additional $250 billion," Kudlow told Fox Business.

The Paycheck Protection Program provides loans and grants to businesses with fewer than 500 employees.

Because of the interest in the program, sparked by the wide economic impact of the coronavirus, administration officials and lawmakers say the program will need more funding.

Republicans want to pass $250 billion in new funding as a stand-alone bill, kicking any other funding demands until the fourth coronavirus package.

After Democrats blocked a "clean" increase in the small business funding Thursday, McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) pledged over the weekend to keep pushing for their preferred proposal.

"Republicans reject Democrats' reckless threat to continue blocking job-saving funding unless we renegotiate unrelated programs which are not in similar peril. ... We will continue to seek a clean PPP funding increase. We hope our Democratic colleagues familiarize themselves with the facts and the data before the program runs dry," they said in a joint statement.

Democrats, however, want the additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program to be paired with an additional $100 billion for hospitals, $150 billion for state and local governments and a boost in food assistance funding. They also want to make reforms to the PPP program to guarantee part of any assistance goes toward smaller lenders.

Democrats tried to pass their proposal on Thursday, but Republicans rejected it.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) spoke with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin late last week and had said that he hoped to get a deal by earlier this week.

But Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) signaled Monday morning that the talks remain stalemated and urged Republicans to "stop posturing."

"We have real problems facing this country, and it's time for the Republicans to quit the political posturing by proposing bills they know will not pass either chamber and get serious and work with us towards a solution," Schumer and Pelosi said in a joint statement.

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