McConnell, Trump appear to differ on pending economic aid bill

Democrats want to add aid to states and hospitals to a bill to fund the Paycheck Protection Program. McConnell and Trump differ on how to respond.
Image: Donald Trump, Steven Mnuchin, Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy
President Donald Trump talks to reporters before signing the coronavirus stimulus relief package in the Oval Office as, from left, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarty, R-Calif., look on, on March 27, 2020.Evan Vucci / AP file

The Paycheck Protection Program, created to aid small businesses and their employees, officially ran out of money yesterday. Democratic and Republican leaders agree on infusing the initiative with new resources, but reaching a bipartisan agreement has proven tougher than expected.

As we discussed yesterday, Democratic leaders want to multi-task: while re-investing in the PPP, the party wants to include in the same bill additional funding for struggling states and municipalities, financially strapped hospitals, and families relying on food stamps. Republicans leaders, meanwhile, want a bill that focuses exclusively on the PPP, pushing off other priorities for a future package.

Dems are ready to negotiate and work out some kind of deal; Republicans have said they will not participate in talks that might lead to funding for the Democratic goals.

Yesterday, Donald Trump reportedly seemed to be ready to side with Democrats. The Hill reported:

President Trump told senators during a phone call Thursday that he's open to attaching money for hospitals and state and local governments to an additional $250 billion for a popular Small Business Administration (SBA) lending program.... Trump told Republican and Democratic senators Thursday that he would be open to attaching additional items requested by Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to new money for the SBA's Paycheck Protection Program, according to Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who participated in the call.

If accurate, this would put the president at odds with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

In theory, Trump's position should bring the relevant players closer to an agreement, but it's difficult to know whether the president will change his mind from one day to the next. At least for now, however, Trump appears to have stepped on his own party's position.

Late yesterday, the president said his team was negotiating with Democrats and that he expected "something's going to be happening."

We'll know soon enough whether a deal takes shape, but the fact that the negotiations exist at all is a departure from the position McConnell and other GOP leaders on Capitol Hill preferred.

* Postscript: We probably shouldn't expect a resolution today. Schumer told MSNBC earlier that the talks will extend into the weekend.