Democrats block $250 billion extra bailout cash for small businesses in Senate in bid to get cash for hospitals, state and local government as Mitch McConnell accuses Nancy Pelosi of 'holding Americans' paychecks hostage'
- Senate Democrats were able to block Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's request for unanimous consent Thursday
- The measure was proposed to pass a $250 billion expansion of the paycheck protection program for small businesses to keep employees on the payroll
- The failure to fast-track the measure came as negotiations fell through between the parties as Democrats demanded more be included in the interim relief bill
- McConnell asserted that Democrats are trying to 'hold Americans' paychecks hostage' by blocking the PPP expansion
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asserted that the measure would have ultimately failed in the lower chamber if it reached her desk without the added measures
- She lamented that it does not include Democrats' demands – like billions more in funding for hospitals and medical centers and bolstering food stamp programs
- 'You cannot expect us to ossify inequality in access to capital as we try to fight the coronavirus,' Pelosi said
Democrats were able to block on Thursday the GOP-proposed interim emergency funding for the paycheck protection program after negotiations between the parties fell off as Democrats demanded more measures be included in the bill expansion.
'Senate Democrats just blocked urgent money for a popular, bipartisan job-saving program which they themselves literally coauthored with us two weeks ago,' McConnell tweeted. 'I complimented both sides and asked to increase the dollar amount without changing anything else. But they blocked it.'
'We just found out that 16 million Americans have been laid off in three weeks,' he continued. 'A staggering 10% of the labor force is now out of work. This is a crisis. No time for partisan maneuvering or politics as usual. I hope Democrats reverse course & let us increase paycheck support soon.'
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell claimed ahead of the vote Thursday morning that Democrats are preventing an expansion of the paycheck protection program (PPP) for small businesses because they want to force negotiations on other measures for coronavirus relief.
'I was surprised to see this simple proposal met uneasily by the Democratic leadership. The distinguished Democratic leader and the Speaker of the House sought to use this crucial program to open broader negotiations on other topics,' McConnell said during his Senate floor remarks.
The Senate Majority Leader says Republicans only want to change the number on the $2.2 trillion CARES Act from $350 billion for the PPP to $600 billion – an increase of $250 billion.
He asserted that no other language from the bill, signed into law by Donald Trump at the end of last month, would be changed in the interim emergency relief provision.
'The Democratic leadership has suggested they may hold Americans' paychecks hostage unless we pass another sweeping bill that spends a half-a-trillion-dollars doubling down on the CARES Act – including parts that have not even started to work yet,' McConnell said in his remarks.
The Kentucky Republican asked for unanimous consent Thursday to get the bill through to the House, but the fast-tracking measure requested by the president was blocked by Democrats.
'To my Democratic colleagues: Please, please do not block emergency aid, you do not oppose just because you want something more,' McConnell plead before the vote.
The block came as 6.6. Million more Americans filed for unemployment in the last week, bringing the new all-time-high unemployment levels upwards of 15 million.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also has claimed that the measure would have failed in her chamber should it have reached her desk without the provisions she outlined included.
'I have said very clearly: What they are proposing will not get unanimous consent in the House. There is no reason why they cannot come to the table and see the value of what we are offering,' Pelosi told The Washington Post Wednesday, lamenting that Republicans will not negotiate to add more relief to the emergency bill.
'You cannot expect us to ossify inequality in access to capital as we try to fight the coronavirus,' she continued, referencing the rejection of Democrats' counter proposal.
Pelosi said she would avoid meddling in the affairs of the Senate, but added: 'I'm just telling you what the House will do.'
Republicans are proposing allocating another $250 billion on top of the $350 billion passed in the CARES Act last month for small businesses to pay essential costs, like rent and keeping employees on the payroll.
Right after the application for the loans opened up last week, nearly all the money was dried up from the fund.
The money also will act as a grant for businesses who use the funds to avoid laying off any employees during the coronavirus crisis.
'In just a few days, this program has become overwhelmingly popular,' McConnell said. 'Thanks to the hard work of small businesses and lenders, billions of dollars have already landed and tens of billions more are already in the pipeline.'
'Jobs are literally being saved as we speak,' the Kentucky Republican continued. 'But it is quickly becoming clear that Congress will need to provide more funding or this crucial program may run dry. That cannot happen.'
Unemployment levels reached an all-time-high as nearly 10 million Americans filed for benefits in the past two weeks after losing their jobs or being furloughed in the midst of the pandemic.
Trump said at his Tuesday coronavirus task force briefing that banks had already processed $70 billion in taxpayer-backed loans for 250,000 small businesses since applications opened on Friday.
He did not say how many of those loans had been approved or how many firms had received any of the money.
Pelosi and Democrats, however, want the emergency bill to include more relief to minority-owned companies, help fund food stamp programs and provide economic assistance to states, hospitals and other health care centers – including producing and distributing more personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks and gloves.
Democrats are proposing upwards of $250 billion additional funding to go towards those efforts as part of the interim emergency relief package.
McConnell claims the administration is prioritizing funding for the PPP this week since it is running low on funds, and that it will then move forward with a CARES Act part two as programs and provisions from the first package are still getting up and running.
Pelosi shot down Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's proposal to solely focus on the small businesses payment program.
Mnuchin, a former Democrat who has a close working relationship with Pelosi, has worked as the liaison between the White House and Capitol Hill on coronavirus mitigation efforts.
During a conference call with House Democrats Wednesday, Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer suggested a deal could be reached with Republicans by Friday.
But Pelosi, a devout Catholic, also made it clear that she would not work on Easter, meaning if a deal is not reached Friday the emergency measure could be stretched well into next week.
'Easter is a glorious occasion — the article of faith, Christ is risen,' Pelosi told the Post. 'I don't intend to spend Sunday on something that should be so evident to them — to respect everybody in this country and how they aspire to meet their financial needs.'
'They have a couple — several hundred billions of dollars to get through this, if they don't do it by Easter Sunday,' she said, referring to the $349 billion PPP fund, a key element of the $2.2 trillion economic rescue package.
'Friday to Monday, or Tuesday, is not dispositive of whether this works or not,' Pelosi said.