Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and GOP House Leader Kevin McCarthy are pushing back against Democratic demands to include issues unrelated to coronavirus relief for small businesses in an expansion of the loan program.
“Republicans reject Democrats’ reckless threat to continue blocking job-saving funding unless we renegotiate unrelated programs which are not in similar peril,” McConnell (R-Ky.) and McCarthy (R-Calif.) said in a joint statement.
The $2 trillion virus relief bill contained a $350 billion fund for small business loans. That program has proven to be overwhelmingly popular and is in danger of running out of cash in a few days. McConnell brought a bill to the Senate floor that would have augmented that fund by $250 billion.
But Democrats blocked the measure, insisting that some of the money should go to local governments and hospitals. McConnell is insisting on a “clean” bill for small business relief and is promising Democrats he will take those other issues up in the next virus relief bill.
The two Republican leaders reiterated Saturday that they will only support an increase in funding for the small business program and warned it has already used up about half of its funding in its first week. They said Democrats should wait for negotiations on a broader package in the coming weeks to address other issues.
“This will not be Congress’s last word on COVID-19, but this crucial program needs funding now,” McConnell and McCarthy said. “American workers cannot be used as political hostages.”
Democrats are trying to leverage the urgency of the need for additional small business funds, probably just to see how far McConnell will bend in round 4 of congressional jockeying for all of these government goodies.
Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin has agreed to negotiate the package, which means that some of what Democrats want is going to be included.
In addition to calling for additional money for hospitals and local governments, Democrats also want to see some of the $250 billion in aid for small businesses directed to underserved communities.
Schumer said Friday that he saw “no reason why we can’t come to a bipartisan agreement by early next week.”
Democrats may believe they have the president over a barrel because Trump needs these huge bills to keep the economy on life support. But the reality is that all of their jobs are on the line, and the man at the top of their ticket, Joe Biden, can’t appear to be taking advantage of the nation’s distress. Whatever Pelosi and Schumer do directly reflects on Biden’s campaign and appearing to block vitally-needed relief over unrelated items will not sit well with voters.
McConnell’s job is to stand firm and resist the Democrat’s efforts to load up relief bills with their silly agenda items. It remains to be seen whether he’s up to that challenge.