House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy pilloried Senate Democrats on Thursday for blocking yet another piece of emergency coronavirus relief legislation.
The bill, meant to replenish the steadily evaporating funding stream for a small business loan program established less than two weeks ago by the $2.2 trillion bipartisan CARES Act, had been introduced by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for passage by unanimous consent just hours before, Politico reported.
Democratic Maryland Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, however, objected to the $251 billion replenishment measure, calling McConnell’s motion for rapid passage a “political stunt” and demanding consideration for their party’s proposed alterations to the small business loan program as well as increased funding for hospitals and state response.
According to the Washington Examiner, the Democrats’ recently floated demand for $2 billion worth of national vote-by-mail funding in the upcoming 2020 presidential election was also brought to the table.
“That’s disgusting to me right now,” McCarthy told reporters just an hour later, warning colleagues in the opposition, “Stop worrying about politics. Start worrying about what’s in front of us right now, and that’s the health of the nation, combating this virus, and our economy.”
“Hopefully, they realize this is disgusting what they are doing,” the California Republican said.
.@GOPLeader on failed attempt to add $250 billion to the Paycheck Protection Program in the Senate: “I’m very disappointed. I do not think people should play politics with the pandemic.” pic.twitter.com/V71Zm6zzmh
— CSPAN (@cspan) April 9, 2020
Incredibly popular with small businesses attempting to prevent layoffs amid pandemic-related closures, the $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program is on track to run out of funds shortly, having already doled out more in loans over the course of two weeks than the U.S. Small Business Administration gave out in the 2019 fiscal year, McCarthy said in a weekly news conference.
According to Politico, those fast-moving funds are a major concern for Trump administration Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin, who personally requested earlier this week that GOP leaders in Congress take action to replenish the program.
Similarly allotted war chests for state and medical sector pandemic response, on the other hand, have yet to come close to running dry, leading figures like McCarthy to argue against replenishing them just yet.
“What they are requesting for hospitals and states — that money is not running out. That money is sitting there. This is the only element that could run out of money in the next week and we’re sitting in pro forma — but they don’t care,” McCarthy said.
“They continue to want to play politics with this pandemic,” he added. “There’s nothing worse than watching that happen.”
McCarthy says he told House Speaker Pelosi when they discussed stimulus: “I’m not holding a bill up because you want to change election law.” Pelosi wants at least $2 billion to help people vote-by-mail.
— Hugo Lowell (@hugolowell) April 9, 2020
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi trashes GOP claims that vote-by-mail is rampant w/ fraud: “We have a different value system about what voting means to our democracy… they should not be afraid of the voice of the people.”
— Hugo Lowell (@hugolowell) April 9, 2020
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, for her part, defended calls for further funding expansions, having already indicated as the CARES Act finished its rounds in Congress on Mar. 26 that Democratic legislators intended to greatly expand the scope of what classified as emergency funding in crafting their forthcoming phase four relief package.
Pelosi specifically went to bat for vote-by-mail provisions in a Friday news conference, alleging Republican opposition to such measures over voter fraud concerns were no more than thinly-veiled fears of another blue wave in November.
“We have a different value system for what voting means to a democracy,” Pelosi told reporters. “Clearly we want to remove all obstacles to voting. … Why should we say to people stand in line for hours when we don’t even want you leaving the house?”
“[Republicans] should not be afraid of the voice of the people,” the speaker added.
McCarthy, however, claimed the vote-by-mail push was an attempt by Democrats to use a national emergency in order to “restructure government.”
“I looked at what happened today and I’m very disappointed,” McCarthy said in a weekly news conference. “To me this is not a time — I know people will say, ‘Oh, let’s restructure government. Let’s hold it up. We should play ransom for relief.'”
“That is not the way to play,” he said.
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