Senate Democrats blocked an effort by the GOP to approve an additional $250 billion in funding aid for small businesses on Thursday.
The extra funding was being sought among fears that the original $350 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program created by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act would run dry.
“It is quickly becoming clear that Congress will need to provide more funding or this crucial program may run dry. That cannot happen,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement, according to CBS News.
“Congress needs to act with speed and total focus to provide more money for this uncontroversial bipartisan program.”
McConnell sought to pass the funding on Thursday by unanimous consent, but Democrats blocked the effort because they wanted to add on additional aid for businesses in disadvantaged communities and another $250 billion in funds for other priorities such as food assistance benefits, Fox News reported.
The Paycheck Protection Program provides small businesses with money to pay up to eight weeks of payroll costs and benefits, as well as funds to be used on rent and other expenses.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, at the direction of President Donald Trump, asked McConnell, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to try and secure additional aid for small businesses.
At the direction of President @realDonaldTrump, I’ve spoken with @SenateMajLdr, @SenSchumer, @SpeakerPelosi, and @GOPLeader to secure an additional $250 billion for the #PPPLoan program to make sure small businesses get the money they need!
— Steven Mnuchin (@stevenmnuchin1) April 7, 2020
Under Mnuchin’s direction, McConnell wanted to increase funding for the program from $350 billion to $600 billion.
“My colleagues must not treat working Americans as political hostages. This does not have to be, nor should it be, contentious,” he said.
“Please do not block emergency aid you do not even oppose, just because you want something more.”
Democrats acknowledged that the funding was needed but said that there could have been bipartisan support if McConnell had discussed with them other fixes to make the program better.
“Yes, we know we need more money for this program,” Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen said.
“But for goodness sakes, let’s take the opportunity to make some bipartisan fixes to allow this program to work better for the very people it’s designed to help — small businesses, nonprofits. That’s what they are asking us to do.”
Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland called the move a “political stunt” because McConnell knew he did not have bipartisan support and went forward with it anyway.
Democrats put forward their own proposal that would cost double and included an extra $100 billion for hospitals, $150 billion for state and local governments additional funding for food assistance benefits.
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