House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy says he will back a Democratic proposal to include funding for America’s hospitals in the small business relief loan funding bill currently being negotiated.
Money for the Paycheck Protection program, which gives low-interest loans and grants to small businesses, ran out of money on Thursday. Senate Republicans want to authorize an additional $250 billion for the program, but Democrats are obstructing a “clean” bill in favor of loading it up with money for state and local governments as well as hospitals.
But in a sign that Republican unity is cracking, McCarthy has come out in favor of funding for hospitals.
“Hospitals need the help. Hospitals are the modern-day soldiers,” Mr. McCarthy told the Wall Street Journal. “I’d like to see money in there—money in the [Paycheck Protection Program] and money in hospitals—that would be a very smart move right now.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has been negotiating on behalf of the White House with Democrats for the better part of a week and not much progress has been made. McConnell still wants a clean bill with only funding for the PPP included. Democrats have dug in their heels and refused to budge, not only on hospital funding but also tens of billions of dollars for state and local governments to jump start their economies. McConnell says he’s open to crafting another bill with those priorities, but the PPP is in critical need of funding and should be dealt with first.
Democrats are scared that the crisis will be over by then and they’ll no longer be able to leverage the pandemic to get what they want. Hence, the current impasse.
Some House Republicans are worried that Mnuchin will give away the store. Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs is begging McCarthy to hold the line on spending.
“In negotiations for additional federal funding, I urge you to refrain from providing additional funds to state and local governments that have shut down their economies. Governors and mayors across the country have inappropriately picked winners and losers by deeming certain businesses essential, while shutting down others,” he wrote.
“In our nation and under our Constitution, these decisions are left to the free market. Restaurants, churches, grocery stores, florists, gyms, and any other business should have been given the opportunity to establish safe social distancing policies and remain open,” he wrote.
“Instead, aggressive political leaders have violated the rights of all Americans, dictating what businesses can operate, whether individuals can practice their faith, who can walk outside, and who can go to work,” he added.
Biggs is voicing sentiments that are growing in popularity across the country. It may mean that many states will reopen for business whether it’s safe or not.
Biggs thinks it’s a matter of trusting the people to do the right thing.
“I trust the American people, I think that they will get it, they will I think they will try everything they can to avoid passing this disease on, and I think what’ll happen is, is you’ll see that, that we are a much more mature people than some of the draconian authoritarian leaders think we are,” he said.
There’s no doubt that a vast majority of people will do their best to avoid exposing themselves to infection. They don’t want to be sick and they don’t want to sicken their loved ones.
But the reality is it only takes a handful of people to infect thousands. Reopening the economy when there are 4,000 Americans dying of the virus every day is, under most circumstances, a risk. It’s certainly one of the issues Trump must weigh before giving the green light to governors about reopening their states.