Democratic leaders in Congress said they would seek at least $500 billion in the next round of stimulus, double what the Trump administration is seeking.
The Trump administration has said it wants to quickly move $250 billion in aid to small businesses, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement Wednesday that they also want to see $100 billion for hospitals and $150 billion for state and local governments. Democrats are also calling for a 15% increase nutrition programs for the needy.
The next stimulus package “must provide transformational relief as the American people weather this assault on their lives and livelihoods,” the Democratic leaders said. “The American people need to know that their government is there for them in their time of great need.”
The call from Democrats follows Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s request Tuesday for Congress to quickly approve supplemental aid for small businesses . Mnuchin said he’d spoken with Pelosi and Schumer as well as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy about quickly securing the money.
“We look forward to the Senate passing that on Thursday and the House passing that on Friday,” Mnuchin said as he and President Donald Trump met with bank executives at the White House.
McConnell said earlier that the Senate could approve more funding for the program during Thursday’s pro-forma session by voice vote or unanimous consent, which wouldn’t require all members of the chamber to return to Washington.
Pelosi said Tuesday she supported providing additional funding but didn’t commit to seeking quick approval without additional conditions.
That program “needs money right away, we know that,” she said on CNN. But she said the government doesn’t have data so far on who is receiving the money. Democrats want to make sure the program is benefiting everyone who qualifies for it, she said.
“So we have certain considerations if we need to go forward with that,” Pelosi said without elaborating.
Businesses have rushed to tap the $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program that was part of the massive $2.2 trillion stimulus passed by Congress in response to the economic crisis spawned by the coronavirus pandemic.
Stay-at-home orders across the country have particularly squeezed small businesses, which account for almost half of U.S. private employment.
Trump said the Small Business Administration has processed $70 billion in guaranteed loans, “which is far greater than we would have ever thought.”
That amount represents the value of loans SBA has registered and guaranteed for lenders to complete the process and disburse funds.
Pelosi previously called for an extension of the PPP program as part of a next round of stimulus that also would include an unemployment insurance extension, more direct payments to individuals and relief for states and localities. She has estimated the bill would cost at least $1 trillion.
GOP Senator Marco Rubio, chairman of the Small Business Committee, said he asked Mnuchin to make a formal request for at least $200 billion more for the small business program as soon as possible.
“There is a critical need to supplement the fund to ensure America’s more than 30 million small businesses will be able to access this critical lifeline,” he said in a statement.
Republicans have thus far been reluctant to enact a wide-ranging phase four stimulus bill. Now that they and their core business supporters such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are demanding an infusion for PPP, Democrats could have leverage to obtain more unemployment insurance and direct payment for workers.
Pelosi would have to weigh such an opportunity against the political costs of delaying aid to small businesses.
While there is support among Senate Democrats for expanding the Paycheck Protection Program’s funds, they want assurances that the pool of lenders in the program is broad enough that small businesses aren’t subjected to biases based on sex, race or other factors, according to a Senate Democratic aide. The aide added that community banks, microlenders and other sources should supplement the efforts of major banks.
A single lawmaker in either chamber could thwart plans for a quick vote. Two weeks ago, Kentucky GOP Representative Thomas Massie drew the ire of his congressional colleagues by forcing many of them to return to Washington to vote personally on the $2 trillion stimulus bill, rather than allow a lightly attended voice vote-procedure for its passage.
Massie’s office did not immediately respond Tuesday to questions about whether he might again attempt to force a quorum of his colleagues to return to Washington should Pelosi schedule a vote. And at least one other House member, independent Justin Amash of Michigan, has been tweeting his dissatisfaction with the PPP program as now set up by Mnuchin.
Schumer separately on Tuesday unveiled his own plan for a next stimulus package. It would include a massive “Heroes Fund” to give hazard pay of up to $25,000 each for workers including grocery store employees, transit workers and pharmacists who are risking their lives to stay on the job amid the coronavirus outbreak. That is also likely to have a price tag in the hundreds of billions of dollars.
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