Senate Democrats on Thursday blocked a Republican push to unanimously pass a bill to invest an additional $ 250 billion in a loan program for small businesses devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking in the Senate, McConnell said he was not “talking about changing the political language” the parties negotiated last month in an unprecedented $ 2 trillion emergency spending program . He urged Democrats not to “block emergency aid that you don’t even oppose just because you want something more” – adjustments to the Small Business Assistance Program and more funding for emergency for hospitals and states, a proposal presented Wednesday by Democratic leaders.
After Cardin rejected the measure, he called McConnell’s decision to pass the funding a “political coup.” He lobbied for provisions to include money for the Small Business Administration’s Disaster Assistance Grants so that people who do not already have a banking relationship can receive assistance.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) leaves for the night after the day’s efforts to wrap up work on coronavirus economic aid legislation to prevent the spread of the disease to coronavirus (Covid-19) in Washington, United States, March 21, 2020.
Mary F. Calvert | REUTERS
Senator Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Then tried to unanimously pass a Democratic amendment. McConnell blocked it and the Senate adjourned until Monday after a pro forma session of about 30 minutes.
It is unclear whether Republicans and Democrats will attempt to reach agreement on emergency legislation to be passed in the coming days. House tenant Nancy Pelosi has indicated that she might try to pass a Democratic bill on Friday – which Republicans can probably block with most of Washington’s representatives.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Pelosi said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin called Tuesday and “asked for a quarter of a trillion dollars in 48 hours, with no data” to justify why this was needed. ”
“Let’s negotiate the timing, the amount and the rest,” Pelosi said of the emergency aid.
The Kentucky Republican said Thursday that small business aid was the only part of the $ 2 trillion bailout bill “at risk of running out of funding right now.”
The Trump administration cited strong demand for loans this week as it asked Congress for more money for the program, which is designed to help small businesses keep their employees on the payroll. Lawmakers initially approved $ 350 billion in loans. They can be canceled in part or in full if companies use them for expenses such as payroll, rent, and utilities.
Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday called for an emergency bill that includes $ 250 billion for hospitals, health systems, state and local governments and food aid programs, in addition money for small businesses. However, Pelosi said she only wanted $ 125 billion for the existing program in particular, and an additional $ 125 billion for community lenders and SBA disaster assistance loans and grants.
Democrats have said they want the bill to be separated from another package they hope to pass to expand key provisions of the $ 2 trillion emergency measure, such as direct payments to individuals , improved unemployment insurance and state subsidies.
After the small business loan program launched on Friday, reports have revealed confusion over applications, loan terms and eligibility. Democrats also said they were concerned about excluding rural business owners, farmers and small businesses that don’t already work with a bank participating in the program.
McConnell argued Democrats did not need to attach other emergency funding measures to the small business plan.
“No one thinks this is the Senate’s last word on COVID-19. We don’t have to do it all now,” he said.