An emergency $250 billion request to replenish a rapidly depleting SBA relief fund was blocked by Senate Democrats.
The measure was pushed by the White House and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as Republicans realized the urgency needed to ensure small businesses got the necessary relief that the stimulus package promised them.
McConnell sought to pass the cash infusion swiftly Thursday by unanimous consent with a skeleton crew of senators but the plan was derailed by Democrats who wanted to prioritize “disadvantaged communities” and demanded an additional $250 billion in funding for other random wants.
McConnell pleaded with Democrats to pass a measure that would change the funding for the program from $350 billion to $600 billion total in a “clean” emergency measure.
“My colleagues must not treat working Americans as political hostages. This does not have to be, nor should it be, contentious.” McConnell said, adding that lawmakers can pass other COVID-19 legislation in the future.
“Please do not block emergency aid you do not even oppose, just because you want something more,” McConnell implored.
The stalemate in the Senate comes as a record-breaking number of Americans have filed for unemployment with the economy shutting down nationwide under stay-at-home orders.
New jobless numbers out Thursday morning show a staggering total of 16.8 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits in the last three weeks.
During a brief Senate session Thursday morning, McConnell sought unanimous consent for the small business funding boost. But Cardin objected. And McConnell formally rejected the Democrats’ alternative proposal – creating an impasse.
And even if it had passed the Senate, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned Wednesday the narrow McConnell plan couldn’t pass the House by unanimous consent.
During her weekly press conference Pelosi made the absurd claim that there was “no data” to suggest small businesses need more funding.
“There is no data as to why we need the rest when there are outstanding needs,” Pelosi said, calling McConnell’s decision to bring the emergency measure to the floor a “stunt.”
Confusingly, Pelosi later told Anderson Cooper that the PPP “really needs money right away, we know that, because of the demand,” and acknowledged that “the $350 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) included in the last round of coronavirus relief is insufficient to meet the demand.”
McConnell said at least $100 billion in loans for small businesses has already been approved under the program since it started accepting applications April 3, meaning that nearly 30% of the fund is already accounted for in a matter of days.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin reportedly told McConnell the funds are going fast and, according to Fast Company, some banks, including Wells Fargo, have actually reached their lending capacity after loaning out a whopping $10 billion in just the first week of the program — and Wells Fargo limited its loans to small businesses with 50 or fewer employees.
Following the holdup, a furious McConnell accused Democrats of trying to hold paychecks “hostage” and blasted them for trying to push programs that have “zero” chance of passing the House and Senate.
“We cannot play games with this crisis,” McConnell said.