Negotiations over interim coronavirus aid bill hit snag on state, local government funding

WASHINGTON — Congressional negotiations on an interim coronavirus aid bill to further help small businesses and hospitals hit a snag Monday as Democrats continued to push for money for state and local governments, but lawmakers were still hopeful a deal would be reached by Monday night.

In a call with House Democrats early Monday evening, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she was hopeful an agreement would be reached on an interim deal, two sources on the call told NBC News.

What remains outstanding in the negotiations, one source on the call said, is if Republicans will take the language Democrats want regarding hospitals and testing – and to make sure the flexibility is there for states to use money from the earlier relief bill, CARES 1.

Negotiators said earlier Monday that they were nearing an agreement, but a disagreement unfolded over the state and local funding — a non-starter for Republicans, two sources told NBC News.

A number of governors, including Andrew Cuomo of New York, have been calling on Congress for weeks to send their states financial assistance. Administration officials told lawmakers during a call Sunday that the funding would not be included in the legislation.

Pelosi told the caucus that the White House is not willing to negotiate on the state and local money “until the next bill” so she turned her focus to use resources from the earlier legislation for states that have acute needs, the sources said.

If a deal is reached Monday night, the Senate will vote Tuesday afternoon, the sources said. The House would likely vote on the legislation Wednesday morning.

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Some progressive lawmakers, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., voiced opposition to the developing legislation Monday.

“As the person who’s representing the most impacted district in the country, my constituents are upset. My constituents were upset about the first package,” she told reporters. “In my district and in New York City and in our community, we’ve had more deaths than 9/11. Multiple times of 9/11 have happened in the time since Congress has recessed. So I’m not here with the luxury of time.

“If it matches up with what has been reported, I will not support this bill,” she added.

Some of the final negotiations are also over how to administer funding for hospitals and testing. There are questions, for example, over whether testing will be geared toward the public or private sectors.

The deal is expected to include $310 billion more for the federal government’s new Paycheck Protection Program, which was created in the last major relief package to help small businesses survive and ran out of funding last week. The interim measure was also expected to provide $75 billion more for hospitals and, according to three sources familiar with the talks, $25 billion for testing.

The current legislation also leaves out funding for food stamps — a Democratic priority that Republicans argue can be negotiated in the next relief bill expected in the coming weeks.

At the White House coronavirus task force briefing Sunday evening, President Donald Trump said that a resolution of negotiations looked promising and that there could be “a nice answer tomorrow.” The president confirmed that hospitals, including those in rural areas, would be part of the agreement.

Last week, the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides forgivable loans to small businesses, was depleted, and Democrats and Republicans were deadlocked over how to pour money back into it. Democrats demanded that part of the funding be set aside for minority and underserved communities.

The measure was expected to include $250 billion for the regular program and a $60 billion carve-out for small businesses owned by minorities, women and those in rural areas. An additional $60 billion for a separate small-business program for disasters — known as the Disaster Relief Loan Program — was expected to be wrapped in. Most of the money for the disaster funding, $50 billion, would be in the form of loans, and the other $10 billion would be in the form of grants, multiple sources familiar with negotiations said.

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To vote on the legislation once an agreement is reached, the Senate could pass it by unanimous consent, which could happen only if no senator objects. The House, on the other hand, is almost certainly unable to pass it by unanimous consent. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., sent out guidance to lawmakers Sunday saying the House could meet as early as 10 a.m. Wednesday to consider the legislation.

A spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., tweeted Monday at House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., accusing the GOP of delaying the vote by insisting on a recorded vote in the House that would bring all members back to Washington as soon as Wednesday morning.

Lawmakers have been home in their districts during the coronavirus outbreak and would need to travel back to Washington for the vote because there are no remote voting capabilities. Some Democrats have floated the idea of voting by proxy, in which a present member could vote at the Capitol on behalf of another member, which would require members to agree to change the rules.

Alex Moe, Sahil Kapur and Dareh Gregorian contributed.

source: nbcnews.com

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