December 1, 2020

US Senate plans vote on business aid amid stimulus deadlock

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday said lawmakers would vote on a small businesses loan program to help firms damaged by the coronavirus pandemic, but the prospects for approval are dim.

Democrats and Republicans in Congress remain locked in a prolonged disagreement over how much additional stimulus is needed to support the economy, with Democrats holding out for a larger, broader package than the narrowly-focused measure McConnell proposed.

The Republican leader said senators would vote on adding more money to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which provided hundreds of billions of dollars in loans and grants to small businesses but ran out of money in August.

“Republicans do not agree that nothing is better than something for working families,” McConnell said, without saying how much the proposal would cost.

“The American people need Democrats to stop blocking bipartisan funding and let us replenish the PPP before more Americans lose their jobs needlessly.”

The PPP was authorized under the $2.2 trillion CARES Act approved with bipartisan support in March as the pandemic descended, and has been credited with supporting consumption and helping the economy regain lost ground.

But money for key provisions like the PPP has expired and despite weeks of talks, the two parties have hit an impasse over the size of the next stimulus and the elements included.

Democrats controlling the House of Representatives, which this month approved a $2.2 trillion package, have said they will not agree to small bills like McConnell’s.

Progress on a larger package was thrown into chaos last week when President Donald Trump ordered his Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to halt negotiations with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The president quickly backed off, and the White House brought its offer for new stimulus to $1.8 trillion.

“STIMULUS! Go big or go home!!!” Trump tweeted on Tuesday.

But Pelosi called the components of the package “insufficient” and amid a Republican revolt over the size of the White House bill, McConnell last week poured cold water on the chances for a larger deal, saying Congress is unlikely to agree on a new stimulus package before the November 3 presidential election.

cs/hs

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