Senate gridlocks as Democrats block Trump $250 billion virus aid plan

An effort by the White House to swiftly push through $250 billion in extra funding for a new emergency small business aid program hit a roadblock in the Senate on Thursday, as Democrats blocked quick action on the measure, arguing that Republicans had resisted adding money for other needs like extra testing for the Coronavirus.

"This was in fact designed to fail, designed as a political stunt," said Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), one of only four Senators on Capitol Hill for Thursday's session.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell denounced Democrats for trying to attach extra spending to the President's request for another quarter of a billion dollars for the 'Paycheck Protection Program,' designed to funnel emergency aid to small businesses around the nation.

"We need more funding, and we need it now," McConnell said on the Senate floor.

Both sides accused the other of playing politics, as the messaging started even before the Senate convened on Thursday.

“There is no reason why this bipartisan job-saving program should be held hostage for other priorities,” McConnell said on Thursday night, as his office trumpeted stories about the GOP effort, and the Democratic demand for other money.

Watching from back home, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said Democrats should reconsider.

“I hope they reconsider,” Rubio tweeted from south Florida.

But Democrats made clear they wanted input into what the Senate was going to approve, especially with most Senators out of town because of the virus outbreak.

"It's a good program," said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD). "But this unanimous consent request was not negotiated."

It wasn't clear what will come next on extra aid. Lawmakers in both the House and Senate are not due back until the week of April 20.

Jamie Dupree

Jamie Dupree, CMG Washington News Bureau

Radio News Director of the Washington Bureau