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Politics Senate adjourns with no deal on small business loan program

22:40  16 april  2020
22:40  16 april  2020 Source:   thehill.com

McConnell says Congress has reached deal to replenish halted coronavirus small business loan program

  McConnell says Congress has reached deal to replenish halted coronavirus small business loan program The Paycheck Protection Program, which provides loans to small businesses, was halted Thursday after it allocated all of its initial $349 billion.The nearly half-trillion deal will provide more funds to the Paycheck Protection Program, which was halted last week after it ran out of money.

A fight over hundreds of billions in small business funding will carry into next week after the Senate adjourned for the week on Thursday without an agreement.

Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Mitch McConnell are posing for a picture: Senate adjourns with no deal on small business loan program © Bonnie Cash Senate adjourns with no deal on small business loan program

The Senate held a brief "pro forma" session on Thursday - which are constitutionally mandated absent a larger adjournment agreement.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) did not try for a second time to pass a new $250 billion for the small business program - a request that would have been blocked by Democrats absent a deal on the funding package, which has not yet been reached.

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"This morning, the program ran out of money and shut down, just as we'd warned. But even now, Senate Democrats are still blocking funding. Every Senate Republican was ready to act today, but Democrats would not let us reopen the program," McConnell said on the floor, referring to the Paycheck Protection Program.

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"It is surreal to see Democratic leaders treat support for workers and small businesses as something they need to be goaded into supporting. This should be above politics," McConnell added. "I hope our colleagues come around soon."

The standoff comes a week after both sides tried for the first time to pass their competing versions of the bill, which is viewed as an "interim" step between last month's massive $2.2 trillion stimulus and a fourth coronavirus bill expected to be passed in the coming months.

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Republicans want to pass a stand-alone bill that would include $250 billion in additional money for the Paycheck Protection Program. Democrats want to add in $100 billion for hospitals, $150 billion for states and a boost in food assistance funding.

The inaction on Thursday afternoon comes after the Small Business Administration (SBA) announced that it had burned through the initial $349 billion allocated by Congress and could no longer accept new loans under the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides grants and loans to businesses with fewer than 500 employees. That leaves businesses who still need aid, or who have not yet gotten their loan approved, in a lurch until Congress is able to clear new funding.

"The SBA is currently unable to accept new applications for the Paycheck Protection Program based on available appropriations funding. Similarly, we are unable to enroll new PPP lenders at this time," the SBA said in a statement Thursday morning.

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  White House, GOP face heat after hotel and restaurant chains helped run small business program dry White House, GOP face heat after hotel and restaurant chains helped run small business program dry

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The impasse will last until at least Monday, when the Senate is next expected to convene for another "pro forma" session.

But McConnell and congressional GOP leadership have shown no signs of backing down from their preference for a "clean" bill that would only include the small business funds.

"The cost of continued Democratic obstruction will be pink slips and shuttered businesses. We hope Democrats see reason soon and finally heed Republicans' repeated calls for a funding bill that can quickly earn unanimous consent from all 100 senators and become law," McConnell said in a joint statement on Wednesday night with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

Trump knocked Democrats in a tweet shortly before the Senate session saying they are "blocking additional funding for the popular Paycheck Protection Program."

"They are killing American small businesses. Stop playing politics Dems! Support Refilling PPP NOW - it is out of funds!" he said.

But Democrats argue hospitals are overwhelmed and states are facing steep budget cuts due to the coronavirus, putting an onus on passing new funding now. Democrats also wanted to reform the PPP program to ensure that part of the $250 billion in new funds would go toward smaller lenders.

There were signs of breaks among Democrats ahead of Thursday's Senate session.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) called for the Senate to pass new PPP funding by unanimous consent.

"The PPP program is going to run out of funding soon - the Senate should approve add'l funding by unanimous consent ASAP. Small businesses need our help to survive during this emergency," Sinema tweeted Thursday.

The stalemate over the small business funding comes as Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have been negotiating for days to try to cut a deal.

Schumer told reporters on Wednesday that there was "no reason" a deal couldn't be reached. But that deal has remained elusive. Negotiations are continuing to talk on Thursday.

"The next meeting will be this afternoon," Pelosi told reporters during the conference call. "We're hopeful they will come back with something that strikes a balance with what we know we need to do."

National testing plan a sticking point in reaching small business aid deal .
Congressional leaders and the White House are inching closer to striking a bipartisan deal that will replenish the depleted small business loan program.Testing supply shortages across the country have prompted Democrats to demand a national testing program to standardize the process across the country. They are pushing for a clear set of metrics to chart the country's progress in expanding testing, and to hold the administration accountable for any ongoing shortages, according to a Democratic source.

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