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03:28 - Source: CNN Business
CNN  — 

A stalemate over increasing funding for an emergency small business loan program deepened on Saturday when Republican congressional leaders said they would not consider including what they described as Democrats’ “unrelated demands.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy signaled in a joint statement that they would continue pressing for a “clean” funding boost for the Paycheck Protection Program, which Congress recently created to offer loans for small businesses struggling to make payroll amid the economic fallout from the Covid-19 crisis.

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“Republicans reject Democrats’ reckless threat to continue blocking job-saving funding unless we renegotiate unrelated programs which are not in similar peril,” the GOP leaders said. “This will not be Congress’s last word on COVID-19, but this crucial program needs funding now. American workers cannot be used as political hostages.”

Senate Democrats on Thursday blocked McConnell’s attempt to add $251 billion to the loan program, instead demanding that the small business support include additional money for states and hospitals. Republicans have refused to consider that request, claiming the Paycheck Protection Program will run out of funds by next week while programs helping states and hospitals have not even begun to hand out money.

“Senate Democrats blocked this funding because Republicans would not open a sweeping renegotiation of the bipartisan CARES Act. Their unrelated demands included hundreds of billions of extra dollars for parts of the legislation which are still coming online and have not yet spent a single dollar,” McConnell and McCarthy said.

Democratic leaders had signaled bipartisan talks could produce a deal by early next week that is broader in scope than what McConnell attempted to move on Thursday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer each said they spoke to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Friday, and Schumer said Mnuchin agreed to “pursue bipartisan talks.”

A Treasury spokesperson did not return requests for comment from CNN.

But White House officials still oppose adding funds for hospitals and states to an influx of cash for the Paycheck Protection Program.

A senior White House official said the administration’s focus is on tackling “now things now, then next things next.” Another White House official said the administration did not want to provide any opening for Democrats to attach other items to the small business loan boost.

“Unlikely we open up the store for this,” the White House official said. “They’re on poor ground.”

A senior GOP congressional aide said Republicans want to demonstrate a more immediate need for additional money versus including the other items pushed by Democrats, which GOP leaders believe can wait.

A third White House official said despite Mnuchin’s calls on Friday, Senate Republicans are still expected to take the lead of negotiations for now. Democrats want money for states and hospitals to be included in the interim relief effort because of the dramatic financial impact the virus is having on those entities.

President Donald Trump this week said several times he supports that kind of funding Democrats want to include, but only in the next phase of the stimulus.

CNN’s Clare Foran, Lauren Fox and Manu Raju contributed to this story.