TheHill reports Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) urged Republicans to “stop posturing” and negotiate on an “interim” coronavirus relief bill that is currently stalemated by partisan divisions.
“We have real problems facing this country, and it’s time for the Republicans to quit the political posturing by proposing bills they know will not pass either chamber and get serious and work with us towards a solution,” Schumer and Pelosi said in a joint statement on Monday.
Their comments come after the Senate blocked two coronavirus relief bills — one from Republicans and an attempt to expand it by Democrats — on Thursday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said over the weekend that they would keep trying to pass the “clean” GOP bill, which would provide an additional $250 billion in funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), appearing to reject a Democratic push to negotiate a larger package. The program, which got $350 billion as part of the third coronavirus relief bill, provides loans and grants for businesses with fewer than 500 employees.
“We will continue to seek a clean PPP funding increase. We hope our Democratic colleagues familiarize themselves with the facts and the data before the program runs dry,” they added.
But Democrats, while saying they aren’t opposed to more small-business money, want it to be paired with an additional $100 billion for hospitals, $150 billion for state and local governments and a boost in food assistance funding.
“Small businesses, hospitals, frontline workers and state and local governments across the country are struggling to keep up with this national crisis. They need more help from the federal government and they need it fast. … While the Trump Administration struggles to figure out how to distribute the funds provided for in the CARES Act, it’s clear that those appropriated amounts will not be enough to cover the tremendous need,” Schumer and Pelosi said on Monday.
Democrats also want to make changes to the PPP, ensuring that half of the new $250 billion in funding goes through “community-based financial institutions that serve farmers, family, women, minority and veteran-owned small businesses.” Democrats have raised concerns that the current setup of the program favors larger businesses with existing connections to a lender.
“Further changes must also be made to the SBA’s [Small Business Administration] assistance initiative, as many eligible small businesses continue to be excluded from the Paycheck Protection Program by big banks with significant lending capacity,” Pelosi and Schumer said, while agreeing that more money for the program is needed to “satisfy the hundreds of billions in oversubscribed demand.”
The stalemate between leadership in both parties comes as nearly half of the initial $350 billion has already been obligated. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, during an interview with Fox Business late last week, predicted that the initial funding for the program would run out on Friday.