Democrats Vote Against GOP’s PPP Stimulus Bill As McConnell Tells White House Not To Make A Deal
Most Democrats in the Senate on Tuesday voted against a stand-alone coronavirus relief bill that would restart the popular Paycheck Protection Program—the vote came as the prospect of agreement in Washington on a more comprehensive bill dimmed yet again amid reports that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) Tuesday cautioned the White House against making a deal in its ongoing negotiations with Democrats led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
With just 14 days until the election, Republicans, Democrats and the White House are all scrambling for political advantage and looking to shift blame during a bitter standoff over the next round of federal pandemic aid legislation.
The procedural vote on whether to table the GOP’s new PPP extension, which produced a 40-57 result (with three Democrats voting with Republicans), was not designed to advance the legislation but does allow the Republican Senators to say they voted for relief measures that Democrats rejected.
Even if the stand-alone PPP bill eventually passes in the Senate, it would not be likely to make it through the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives.
Arguing in favor of passing the PPP extension—which would have allocated another $258 billion to the program and allowed the hardest-hit businesses to take out second loans—in the absence of a larger relief package, Senate Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said, “It isn’t everything, but it’s a lot.”
Senate Democrats, on the other hand, have maintained that the PPP extension bill (like other piecemeal solutions proposed by the GOP) was insufficient to address the needs of the economy and characterized it as a bid by Republicans for political cover as the prospect of getting relief to millions of Americans before the election dims.
“Everyone knows, including the Republican Leader, that we are not going to enact the bill that’s currently before the Senate,” Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said during debate on the Senate floor on Tuesday. “Why are we taking these issues up? One simple answer: political cover votes.”
Mnuchin and Pelosi are continuing to struggle toward an agreement on a comprehensive relief bill ahead of the election, with a 48-hour deadline for each side to present their terms set to expire on Tuesday evening. Pelosi appeared optimistic ahead of a Tuesday afternoon phone call with the Treasury Secretary, but she noted in an interview on Bloomberg TV that many divisions—over state and local aid, liability protections, and certain tax credits, to name a few—still remain. A spokesman for Pelosi said the Tuesday call “provided more clarity and common ground” and indicated that discussions would continue on Wednesday.
The Washington Post reported that McConnell informed his members during a Tuesday lunch that he had warned the White House not to agree to a comprehensive stimulus deal with Democrats before the election. McConnell reportedly suggested that Pelosi had not negotiated “in good faith,” and implied that a deal between Democrats and the White House could jeopardize the Senate’s confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. McConnell said Tuesday that he would bring any deal the White House makes with Pelosi to the Senate floor for a vote “at some point”—though he didn’t specify whether that meant before or after the election. The Senate Majority Leader had previously said he wouldn’t support a bill as expensive (somewhere between $1.8 trillion and $2.2 trillion) as what Pelosi and Mnuchin are discussing.
What To Watch For
On Wednesday, the Republican-led Senate is planning another vote on a new $500 billion relief package. McConnell said Saturday that the narrow package would include more supplemental federal unemployment benefits, more than $100 billion in additional funding for schools and more funding for Covid-19 testing, tracing and vaccine development. There’s no indication that Democrats in the Senate would be willing to support that effort. Senate Republicans attempted to pass a similar narrow relief bill in early September, and Democrats used the filibuster to block its passage because they thought it was too small to meet the country’s needs.
The Paycheck Protection Program was created under the $2.2 trillion CARES Act passed in March. It provided forgivable federal loans for payroll and some overhead for small businesses in order to keep them afloat—and their workers employed—during mandatory business shutdowns (and a falloff in demand) during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. The program exhausted its original $350 billion in funding in two weeks, and Congress then replenished it with another $310 billion.
$135 billion. That’s how much money was left in the PPP’s coffers when applications closed on August 8.
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