Democrats say “the amount needs to be doubled, its not enough”. Do you want $1200 or more?
Democrats blocked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s attempt Thursday to ram through coronavirus relief legislation to infuse a new small business loan program with an additional $250 billion, saying Mr McConnell’s maneuver was a “political stunt” that shut them out of the negotiating process.
Mr McConnell’s new legislation to add money to the Treasury Department’s new payment protection program (PPP) “will not address the immediate need of small businesses in the legislation that we have [previously] passed,” said Senator Ben Cardin of Delaware, the top Democrat on the Senate small business panel.
Mr McConnell said in his opening Senate floor remarks Thursday that PPP is the only program in the $2.2 million coronavirus stimulus package passed in March that has run out of money. Cardin said that’s not true, naming multiple funds that have already dried up, including an emergency disaster relief funds program for small businesses.
Democratic leaders have spent the last two weeks outlining their priorities for the next coronavirus relief package, while Republicans adopted a wait-and-see approach and were mostly quiet in the media about the contours of a fourth phase of legislation.
That changed this week when Mr McConnell and the White House announced, apparently to the surprise of Democrats, that they wanted to limit the next bill to adding more money for small businesses — and nothing else.
“This unanimous consent request was not negotiated. There was no effort made to follow the process that we could get this done. So it won’t get done. It’s not going to be enacted. The majority leader knows that,” Mr Cardin said.
Senators will either have to return to Washington or get negotiating to get the next round of coronavirus relief funding flowing.
With just four senators in the chamber on Thursday, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) blocked a unanimous voice vote in favor of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s $250 billion small business loans bill. Cardin called the bill a “political stunt,” and reflected congressional Democrats’ demands for great accountability and diversity in how the bill would be spent.
Cardin’s opposition didn’t come as a surprise, seeing as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) unveiled Democrats’ demands for the bill on Wednesday. They’d like to see that $250 billion doubled, with an extra $100 billion going to hospitals, community health centers, and health systems; $150 billion for state and local governments; and an additional 15 percent support added to SNAP food stamp benefits. They also demanded that half of the small business loans “serve farmers, family, women, and minority and veteran-owned small businesses and nonprofits in rural, tribal, suburban, and urban communities.”
Senators have largely scattered back to their home states amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Without a provision for remote voting, any actions Congress wants to take have to be done without opposition.