The White House and congressional Democrats are discussing adding tens of billions of dollars for hospitals as part of a small business package stalled in Congress, a source involved in the talks told CNN on Saturday.
An agreement on hospital funding could make it easier for the two sides to reach a deal as Capitol Hill remains at an impasse over $250 billion in additional money for the small business program and Democratic demands to extend funding to other entities affected by the crisis. One area of discussion, according to the source, is adding $75 billion for hospitals.
Democrats made their latest offer Friday night to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin over the stalled small business package, an offer that included $150 billion for cash-strapped state and local governments as well as money for hospitals and more expansive testing.
But the White House and Republican leaders are rejecting the demand for money to state and local governments, which is emerging as a key sticking point, arguing those entities are yet to receive all the funding in the stimulus law enacted last month.
“For this package, we will never say yes to that demand,” said a source involved in the talks.
Republicans are hopeful they could see a deal by Monday, one Republican close to the negotiations told CNN, but there is a caveat: It only takes one member of either chamber to object to stop any deal from going forward.
Even if congressional leadership and the Trump administration are able to reach a deal, they must be able to sell it to the entire Senate and House in a matter of days and make sure no one objects to it during quick “pro forma sessions” where no legislative business is conducted.
The next Senate pro forma session is set for Monday at 2 pm ET.
“Can they process it Monday? I think most people will be for it,” one person familiar with the negotiation told CNN, “but the question is will the Senate be able to get” unanimous consent to do this if a deal is reached.
A deal – if reached – is expected to also include more money for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, according to a source familiar with the negotiations. That program is different than the new small business Payroll Protection Program, but has also seen a massive increase in volume over the last two weeks.
Money is also expected to be designated for smaller community banks to handle PPP loans in an effort to ensure under-served communities are getting those loans.
Democrats have wanted such a provision added to the measure, and CNN has previously reported Mnuchin has been willing to accept.
In public comments Friday, President Donald Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy both signaled a willingness to include hospital funds in the measure. The source said Saturday that the administration is reviewing ideas, and another source familiar with the matter said talks are continuing.
As they blocked more funding for small businesses, Democrats initially demanded $100 billion for hospitals and community health centers, along with $150 billion for state and local governments, money for food stamps and changes to ensure small business loans are given to underserved companies.
The administration continues to insist that no new money be given to state and local governments until after the funds are spent from the $2.2 trillion stimulus law enacted last month, the source said.
Whatever is added will raise the price tag significantly. So, the latest package is expected to be a lot bigger.
It’s unclear whether any of the other Democratic demands will be met, but talks are expected to continue this weekend.