Democrats blocked an urgent small-business relief package Thursday after Republicans ignored their demand to double the funding and increase the scope of the legislation.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, responding to a request from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, hoped to pass a bill quickly to replenish a small-business aid program with an infusion of $250 billion in federal funding.
But Democrats blocked the Kentucky Republican’s unanimous consent request to pass the measure out of the Senate and proposed their own $500 billion measure.
“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 a number of parts of the CARES Act, including parts that haven’t even started to work yet. The country cannot afford more wrangling or political maneuvering. There is zero chance the sprawling proposal Democrats have gestured toward could pass either chamber by unanimous consent this week. No chance,” McConnell said.
Democrats said the bill fell short of providing adequate funding for hospitals and state and local governments. The bill also ignored their demand that the Treasury Department set aside half the small-business money for groups that have traditionally had difficulty obtaining loans.
Sen. Ben Cardin, a top Democrat from Maryland who serves on the Senate Small Business Panel, introduced the Democratic proposal, which doubles the spending to $500 billion and dedicates $100 billion to healthcare facilities, plus another $250 billion to state and local governments. It would waive work requirements for food stamps and increase food stamp benefits.
The Democratic bill would set aside half of the small business spending to smaller, community-based lenders, credit unions, and minority depository institutions.
Cardin called the Republican bill “a political stunt” that he said, “will not address the immediate needs of small businesses.”
The battle over the small business package came after new unemployment figures showed nearly 6.6 million more people filed for unemployment in the United States last week due to the coronavirus outbreak.