Schumer says deal close, but no word on CCC, SNAP
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said today that negotiators on the coronavirus bill are now at the “two yard” line and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she is hopeful that an agreement can be reached that the House could pass by unanimous consent.
But in his speech on the Senate floor, Schumer did not say anything about the conflict between Republicans and Democrats over whether the bill should provide additional authority for the Agriculture Department’s Commodity Credit Corporation, which is used to aid farmers, or for an increase in benefit levels for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program beneficiaries.
And Pelosi said on MSNBC that she is “disappointed” in the SNAP provisions so far. Pelosi, however, praised House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., for their work on SNAP.
Neither Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Hoeven, R-N.D., nor Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabernow, D-Mich., immediately returned emails requesting comment on the status of the agriculture and nutrition provisions. A farm lobbyist said the issues are “still being debated.”
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On Monday, Hoeven organized a colloquy on the CCC provision that would replenish the CCC’s funding authority of $30 billion for this fiscal year, add $20 billion to the account and permit USDA to use the CCC to make payments to cattle producers. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said that provisions were added at the Democrats’ request to make sure all the money is not spent on cattle producers, but that Democrats now don’t want the CCC provision included.
Stabenow joined the colloquy to say that Democrats want to join the Republicans to help farmers, but noted that her state’s cherry farmers had not gotten any trade aid when the Trump administration used the CCC to help farmers. She also said, “We can’t leave out people who are struggling to eat,” and noted that previous crisis legislation has included an increase in SNAP benefits.
Schumer spoke on the Senate floor after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and other Republican senators called on Democratic senators to pass the bill immediately, and Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said that Senate Democrats were insisting on negotiations because the McConnell bill did not put workers first.
Schumer said that he had just come from a “very productive” meeting with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnunchin and White House officials about the bill and that he did not see any issues that “cannot be overcome within the next few hours.”
Although there have been reports that a deal is expected today, Schumer did not provide an exact timeline. Pelosi said on MSNBC that if a deal is reached today, the bill would still have to be written and she would not expect a vote in the Senate until Wednesday.
Pelosi added that she would prefer that the House pass the bill by unanimous consent, which would not require members to return to Washington. But she added that other options are to vote on the bill on the House floor or to pass the bill that she announced Monday. If the House passes its own bill, the House and the Senate would have to go to conference.
Pelosi noted that she had asked House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern to explore voting options and that he had written a report on the subject.
But Pelosi noted that even if the House develops a system of remote voting, members would have to return to Washington to establish it.
Schumer said he was pleased with agreements that amount to a “Marshall Plan” for the nation’s medical and longterm care systems and that the unemployment insurance plan would involve the government paying the full salaries of people for four months.
The unemployment insurance plan would allow restaurant workers to continue to be employed and keep the businesses “intact,” he noted.
He also said that Democrats have made progress on their insistence that any bailout funds to business be subject to transparency and oversight.
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