Schumer: Trump administration OKs talks on virus aid bill

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In this image from video, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks on the Senate floor at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, March 25, 2020. (Senate Television via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer says the Trump administration has agreed to pursue bipartisan House-Senate talks on an interim bill to replenish a $350 billion “paycheck protection” program for businesses that Treasury fears is being rapidly depleted.

The New York Democrat said he spoke with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Friday and hopes for a deal early next week. Schumer is pressing to add funding for health care providers such as hospitals, as well as further funding for cash-poor state and local governments.

The developments come a day after Democrats stifled an attempt by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to pass a $250 billion infusion into the business program — just in its infancy and beset with hiccups as it starts up — by a voice vote.

Congress is in an unprecedented situation in which convening either chamber to do business that requires roll call votes is out of the question as the nation is locked down by the coronavirus pandemic. That means legislation has to advance by consensus only. Democrats say they want safeguards to ensure that funding under the program can reach all eligible businesses, including those that do not have established credit relationships with banks such as minority-owned firms.

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