Senate Democrats on Thursday blocked a Republican effort to unanimously pass legislation to add $250 billion to the government’s small business loan program aimed at helping companies devastated by the Chinese coronavirus pandemic.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) attempted to forward the bill by unanimous consent, but Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) opposed the move, pumping the brakes on President Donald Trump’s plan to bolster the “paycheck protection” program.
In a Senate floor speech, McConnell affirmed that the proposal would not impact the “policy language” of the $2 trillion bi-partisan coronavirus relief package passed late last month.
“We need more funding and we need it fast,” McConnell urged. “Do not block emergency aid you do not oppose just because you want something more.”
Several other top Republicans, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), expressed support for the plan this week.
“America’s small businesses are working hard to support their employees and the communities they live in. To help them do that, Congress has passed the most ambitious relief package in history for small businesses with the Paycheck Protection Program,” said McCarthy. “The demand for that program has been overwhelming and in just one week, the federal government has provided tens of billions of dollars in relief.”
“I support the Secretary’s request and following the Senate’s approval, the House should move swiftly to do the same and provide confidence to small businesses across the country that their government will be there for them,” he added.
Leading up to McConnell’s request, Democrats suggested that they would shoot down the measure.
Democrats want add-ons and protections to make sure businesses in disadvantaged communities are able to participate.
McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) outlined their positions in relatively muted rhetoric Wednesday — tacit acknowledgment of the urgency of the measure.
McConnell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin say the business program, which involves direct subsidies to companies to keep employees on payroll and pay their rent, is on track to quickly deplete its first $350 billion infusion as businesses rush to apply for the aid.
The AP contributed to this report.