Well over a day late, and probably a dollar short too, although it will take a week or two to determine that. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told CNN that an agreement has been reached to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), the small-business rescue fund that ran out of money last week. Schumer predicted that it would pass the Senate later today:
“There is 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,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says about a $450 billion deal to help small businesses and expand coronavirus testing.https://t.co/SzGYN8l6wK pic.twitter.com/JTnN2quWYH
— New Day (@NewDay) April 21, 2020
Democrats and the White House “came to an agreement on just about every issue” during late-night negotiations, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said Tuesday morning, predicting that the Senate would pass the measure later in the day.
“I think we will be able to pass this today,” Schumer said on CNN. The nearly $500 billion coronavirus relief package features an injection of funds into a new and heavily oversubscribed small-business loan fund that ran out of cash last week, as well as funding for hospitals and a national COVID-19 testing program.
That’s not all that got included in this package. The new bill will spend close to $400 billion on the PPP, but sets aside $125 billion for direct administration by Treasury rather than lending it through banks. The intent is to rescue businesses underserved by lenders, which Schumer argues will focus mainly on women- and minority-owned businesses.
As Democrats demanded, they will also get more money earmarked for hospitals and testing. They came up short on relief for state and local governments, though:
Schumer said the new small-business loan funds would include $125 billion set aside for the “unbanked,” which he described as largely minority- and women-owned businesses and rural businesses that don’t have strong relationships with traditional lenders.
The New York Democrat also said hospitals would get $65 billion in the deal and that the legislation would include $30 billion for a national testing program. Those figures are slightly different from what negotiators had been saying for the past few days, when the money for hospitals had been cited as $75 billion, with $25 billion for testing.
Schumer calls the money for testing, as well as a commitment to a national testing strategy, a big win for Democrats. Er, maybe, but the White House has already been taking that tack lately anyway, with Donald Trump’s DPA order for 20 million more test swabs being his latest move in that arena. Schumer also claims credit for more restrictions on qualifying for PPP loans, but that was a problem Congress created in the first place by writing the bill poorly. Had they been in session rather than in recess, they could have fixed that issue as soon as it came up, rather than a week after all the money ran out.
For the most part, Republicans got what they wanted out of these negotiations. They had to concede less than $100 billion of spending on hospitals and testing that they planned to include in Phase 4 anyway, and got a big new tranche for PPP to reopen — with some common-sense restrictions. The only significant win Democrats got out of delaying this bill for a week was to get an expedited schedule for Phase 4, which was paid for by lots and lots of unemployed Americans who might otherwise had jobs.
Will it pass today, as Schumer claims? The Senate has a pro forma session scheduled for 4 pm ET today, which Mitch McConnell set up every day in case a deal dropped for a relatively quick unanimous-consent vote. The trick will be getting it past the House, which will have to meet on Thursday as objections to the process will almost certainly force Pelosi to recall the lower chamber again. More on that in a later post.
Update: Politico throws a little cold water on Schumer’s dotted-Is and crossed Ts:
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Democrats and the Trump administration have reached a deal on a new round of coronavirus aid, though staffers working on the bill cautioned negotiations were not complete. …
Aides in both parties said they were still finalizing the legislation and Schumer said staffers were still working out the particulars of the massive package, which will mark Congress’s fourth major infusion of coronavirus aid.
They have a few hours to knock out the remaining details. If Schumer got out over his skis on this, good luck returning to the bargaining table.