U.S. Senate Democrats seek coronavirus fund disclosure as Trump pushes nominees


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrats in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday will try to pass legislation imposing disclosure requirements on federal coronavirus assistance to businesses, while the Republican majority’s agenda focuses on President Donald Trump’s nominees.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the Senate back into session for an agenda focused largely on approving Trump’s candidates for top administration jobs such as intelligence director and inspector general for a major coronavirus relief fund.

But Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer announced on the Senate floor that he and fellow Democrat Ben Cardin will seek approval for a bill requiring the administration to issue daily and weekly reports on activities of its Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses and other disaster relief assistance initiatives.

“Transparency around these programs is the order of the day,” Schumer said.

The legislation would require downloadable data on the $650 billion-plus Paycheck Protection Program, as well as other programs to provide economic injury disaster loans and debt relief. Schumer said the data would be broken down by geography, demographics and industry.

The two Democrats were expected to try to pass the bill shortly after 2 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT) by unanimous consent or a voice vote. It was not clear whether Republicans would block approval.

The possibility of a floor fight over coronavirus legislation emerged as Democrats criticized McConnell’s focus on pushing through Trump’s nominees.

Senators held a morning confirmation hearing for U.S. Representative John Ratcliffe, Trump’s nominee for national intelligence director. An afternoon hearing was set for Brian Miller, a White House lawyer nominated to oversee a $500 billion fund to rescue larger businesses hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Democrats have raised doubts about both nominees and their independence from Trump.

In the meantime, Democrats and Republicans have sparred over whether to add to the almost $3 trillion in spending they have authorized to ease the virus’ heavy economic toll.

On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell described weeks of discussion about new coronavirus legislation that would focus on helping the country pivot to a phased economic reopening and recovery.

“As we carefully consider what may come in the weeks ahead, we’ll need smart, targeted policies to help jump-start our economic engine,” he said on the Senate floor.

Reporting by Susan Cornwell and David Morgan; Editing by Scott Malone, Peter Cooney and David Gregorio