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Small-business funds in jeopardy as Democrats request more coronavirus aid

Small-business funds in jeopardy as Democrats request more coronavirus aid 1

WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats blocked a Republican proposal to add $250 billion to small-business coronavirus relief funds on Thursday after demanding the inclusion of additional resources for hospitals and state and local governments.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had sought unanimous consent to pass the emergency funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, but Democrats objected, claiming McConnell was politicizing the push for more small-business money.

“I am afraid that this unanimous consent is basically a political stunt,” Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., said following McConnell’s request. “This unanimous consent was not negotiated, there was no effort made … so it won’t get done. It’s not going to be enacted.”

The state’s other Democratic senator, Chris Van Hollen, also criticized McConnell for what he called his “go it alone” approach that he said “violates the spirit” of the bipartisan coronavirus response efforts.

“The majority leader knew full well there was not agreement,” Van Hollen said. “This was designed to fail.”

Cardin and Van Hollen offered an alternative proposal, which drew McConnell’s objection; a senator objecting in person would prevent any legislation from passing by unanimous consent. The Senate then adjourned until Monday.

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In floor remarks earlier Thursday morning, McConnell had asked Democrats to support the proposal.

“Please, do not block emergency aid that you do not oppose just because you want something more,” he said. “Nobody believes this is the Senate’s last word on COVID-19. We don’t have to do everything right now.”

April 7, 202006:15

In their counter proposal, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said half of the requested $250 billion would need to be directed to businesses and nonprofits owned by women, minorities, veterans and families. They also called for an additional $100 billion for hospitals, $150 billion for state and local governments and more money for food assistance programs. Their proposal would more than double the Republicans’ initial proposal.

In media interviews on Wednesday, Pelosi made clear that without these priorities included, the Republican plan would not receive support from House Democrats.

“The bill that they put forth will not get unanimous support in the House,” she told National Public Radio on Wednesday. “It just won’t.”

With lawmakers still at home in their districts, unanimous support would be needed to pass a bill.

Kasie Hunt contributed.

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