Commentary

After Weeks Of Negotiation, Senate Passes Small Business Relief Package

Even as the Senate passed an “interim” $484 billion COVID-19 stimulus package yesterday that will provide relief to small businesses as well as to hospitals and will also provide funds for coronavirus testing, a debate over what should come next broke out. 

Yesterday’s bill will be taken up by the House on Thursday, where it is expected to pass. President Donald Trump says he will sign it.

“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the deal includes more than $320 billion for small businesses, a top priority for Republicans wanting to replenish funding for the Paycheck Protection Program…. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a North Carolina Democrat, said the PPP would now include small banks, credit unions and nonprofits -- a top priority for Democrats who said the program’s requirement for pre-existing relationships with banks to be eligible was too restrictive,” Robert Schroeder, Victor Reklaitis and Jonathan Nicholson write  for MarketWatch.

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“Of the $310 billion authorized for the Paycheck Protection Program, $60 billion will be set aside for smaller lending facilities, including ‘community financial institutions, small insured depository institutions and credit unions with assets less than $10 billion.’

“There will also be $10 billion for grants under the Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, $50 billion for disaster recovery loans and $2.1 billion for additional salaries and expenses for the Small Business Administration,” CNN’s Manu Raju and Clare Foran write.

The legislation passed by voice vote after Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) took to the Senate floor to rip the bill for creating more debt but did not block it by requiring a recorded vote. 

“No amount of bailout dollars will stimulate an economy that is being strangled by quarantine. It is not a lack of money that plagues us but a lack of commerce,” Paul said, Politico’s Marianne Levine reports

“We should not be passing major legislation, especially legislation providing nearly a half-trillion dollars in new spending without Congress actually being in session. This crisis is too big to leave up to a small handful of people,” Rand’s libertarian colleague, Sen. Mike Lee (R - Utah), said. 

That sets the stage for a battle over a fourth phase of coronavirus relief that “could rival the $2.2 trillion CARES Act passed by Congress last month,” Alexander Bolton writes  for The Hill.

“Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (New York) on Tuesday called for Congress to begin thinking about ‘CARES 2' after the Senate deal, while Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Kentucky) warned of the growing amount of debt the U.S. is adding, previewing the battle to come,” Bolton adds.

“I’d remind my colleagues this is an interim measure,” Schumer said, speaking on the Senate floor shortly before the legislation passed yesterday, Erica Werner and Seung Min Kim report for The Washington Post

“There’s plenty of hard-won provisions that we Democrats are pleased with, but it’s ultimately a building block. In the weeks ahead Congress must prepare another major bill similar in size and ambition to the Cares Act. The next bill must be big and bold and suited to the needs of a beleaguered nation,” Schumer continued.

McConnell disagreed in an interview with the Post after the vote.

“He said it was time to ‘push the pause button’ on additional spending legislation, at least until lawmakers are able to return to the Capitol in person. That’s scheduled to happen May 4.

“McConnell said that the impact on the deficit and debt is becoming a concern and that the best stimulus is for the economy to start functioning again. He said he was pleased that was gradually starting to happen,” Werner and Kim add.

The House vote is scheduled for 10 a.m. tomorrow. 

“Democrats and Republicans in the House have also been battling behind the scenes over a plan to allow votes by proxy amid the pandemic. The House will not be able to pass the interim legislation unanimously, meaning lawmakers need to return to Washington to do so,” Lauren Egan and Julie Tsirkin write  for NBC News.

“In a call with reporters Tuesday, [House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland)] said that members were not being forced to leave their districts and that he was aware that the coronavirus would keep some lawmakers at home, but he said he expected a majority to make it back to the Capitol to pass the legislation in a roll-call vote,” they add.

“After I sign this Bill, we will begin discussions on the next Legislative Initiative with fiscal relief…to State/Local Governments for lost revenues from COVID 19, much needed Infrastructure Investments for Bridges, Tunnels, Broadband, Tax Incentives for Restaurants, Entertainment, Sports, and Payroll Tax Cuts to increase Economic Growth,” Trump tweeted yesterday.

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