Congress Moved Uncharacteristically Swiftly On $2.2T Package. Don’t Expect Same Bipartisan Smooth-Sailing Ahead.
A showdown on Thursday between Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill previewed a tough fight to come over future coronavirus stimulus legislation. Senate Democrats blocked Republicans' attempts to pass a $250 billion bill that exclusively helped small businesses, wanting additional aid for health providers and hospitals too. Republican senators balked at adding more money.
The New York Times:
Small-Business Aid Stalls In Senate As Democrats Demand More Funds
A Trump administration request for quick approval of $250 billion in additional loans to help distressed small businesses weather the coronavirus crisis stalled Thursday in the Senate after Republicans and Democrats clashed over what should be included in the latest round of government relief. The dispute was a prelude to what is likely to be a far more complicated and consequential set of negotiations over a larger infusion of federal aid that lawmakers expect to consider in the coming weeks on the heels of the $2 trillion stimulus law enacted late last month. (Cochrane, 4/9)
The Associated Press:
Senators Block New Virus Aid, Pelosi Decries 'Stunt'
GOP leader Mitch McConnell sought to keep Thursday’s debate limited to Trump’s request and wouldn’t accept Democratic additions. Even if the GOP plan had succeeded in the Senate, the Democratic-controlled House is determined to make changes to ensure small businesses in minority communities benefit from the burst of government funding. Democrats and Republicans agree the aid is urgently needed and talks are sure to continue, but it reinforces that Congress and the White House will need to find bipartisan agreement — especially with lawmakers scattered in their states and districts and both the House and Senate unable to conduct roll-call votes. (Taylor and Mascaro, 4/10)
The Wall Street Journal:
GOP, Democrats Hit An Impasse Over Nature Of Next Round Of Coronavirus Aid
Democrats said the small-business loan program, called the Paycheck Protection Program, needed changes to ensure that less-sophisticated business owners can also access the funds. “In this process, many people who do not have banking relationships were going to be last in line,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) told reporters on a call Thursday. “That’s why when they asked for more money, we said, ‘Let’s help everybody here.’ ” Mrs. Pelosi said the Senate GOP bill wouldn’t be able to pass the House, but said it could be the “basis for some negotiation.” (Peterson and Duehren, 4/9)
Senate Brawl Derails Fast Push For New Coronavirus Relief
Democratic Maryland Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen each deemed McConnell’s move a “political stunt” and said the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program doesn’t need money at the moment. “It’s a good program, we strongly support it. It’s bipartisan. But this unanimous consent request was not negotiated. There was no effort made to follow the process that we could get this done. So it won’t get done,” said Cardin, the top Democrat on the Small Business Committee. “The majority leader knows that.” (Everett and Caygle, 4/9)
The Wall Street Journal:
Small-Business Loans Face Delays Even As Coronavirus Program Expands
The $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program opened a week ago with loans to companies with 500 or fewer employees and expands Friday to include independent contractors and self-employed individuals. Yet even as the program expands, the first applicants are still waiting for funding, fueling anxiety among business owners whose revenue has tanked and whose bills are piling up. “There are very few business owners who have successfully gotten the money,” said Amanda Ballantyne, executive director of the Main Street Alliance, a small-business advocacy group. “Money isn’t flowing yet.” (Hayashi, 4/10)
Democrats Ramp Up Talks With Mnuchin On Next COVID-19 Relief Deal
Senate Democrats are negotiating with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in hopes of reaching a deal to provide an additional $250 billion for a popular small-business emergency lending program and include in the same package more funds for hospitals and state governments. Bipartisan talks are continuing behind the scenes despite a blowup on the Senate floor Thursday morning in which Republicans and Democrats blocked each other’s proposals to shore up funding shortfalls in the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package. (Bolton, 4/9)
Democrats Seek Hazard Pay For Health Workers Amid Pandemic
Congressional Democrats are trying to add $13 per hour hazard payments for frontline health care workers up to a total of $25,000 in the next coronavirus relief package, along with $15,000 incentives for people who join the medical workforce surge during the pandemic. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said a so-called Heroes Fund could compensate nurses, EMTs and other workers for unanticipated risks as they confront a flood of new cases. (Doherty and Roubein, 4/9)
The Associated Press:
For McConnell, Virus Carries Echo Of His Boyhood Polio
Mitch McConnell’s earliest childhood memory is the day he left the polio treatment center at Warm Springs, Ga., for the last time. He was just a toddler in 1944, when his father was deployed to World War II, his mother relocated the family to her sister’s home in rural Alabama and he came down with flu-like symptoms. While he eventually recovered, his left leg did not. It was paralyzed. (Mascaro, 4/10)