The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) ran out of funds for forgivable loans to small businesses on Thursday. Repeated efforts by Senate Republicans to replenish the program were blocked by Democrats at the urging of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who insisted such efforts be coupled with other priorities she wanted funded.
A number of Senate Democrats have now broken away from Pelosi and joined a former Obama administration official — and Senate Republicans — in calling for the immediate replenishment of the program without any additional concerns joined to it, the Washington Examiner reported.
Former Obama official sides with Republicans
The PPP was initially funded with $350 billion as part of the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package passed by Congress, but the program proved so popular that those funds were depleted within two weeks. Senate Republicans tried multiple times on an emergency basis to add another $250 billion to the program by way of unanimous consent but were blocked by objections from Senate Democrats.
The Democrats were acting in league with Pelosi, who demanded that any extra funding for the PPP be coupled with billions in funds for hospitals, state and local governments, and the food stamp program — although there are already ongoing negotiations for a broader legislative funding package in which those other concerns could be addressed. Republicans and President Donald Trump have fiercely criticized the speaker for standing in the way, but so far, she hasn’t budged.
On Thursday, however, when the PPP’s funds had been exhausted and no more loan applications could be accepted, a top official from former President Barack Obama’s Small Business Administration, Karen Mills, urged Congress to set aside everything else and immediately replenish the vital program.
“Congress has to act as soon as possible,” Mills told Roll Call, adding that she’d spoken directly with a number of Senate Democrats as well as Speaker Pelosi’s office. “What I’m saying is: Number one, get the money replenished.”
Democrats begin to abandon Pelosi
Perhaps taking a cue from Mills, three Senate Democrats — Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and Tina Smith (D-MN) — broke ranks and signaled their support for an immediate effort to replenish the funds in the PPP.
“West Virginia small businesses are hurting. It’s time to stop the partisan bickering and come together to fix this,” Manchin said in a press release on Thursday. “Congress must act in a bipartisan way to quickly invest more funding into the PPP and we need to do so in a way that protects small businesses and healthcare providers like those across rural West Virginia.”
Sen. Smith tweeted, “Minnesota small businesses need relief now. I fought hard for this program and am now pressing for additional funds, faster delivery and implementation improvements to help more Minnesotans get assistance ASAP.”
Similarly, Sen. Sinema posted, “Arizona businesses are counting on us to help them during this emergency. I’m calling on leadership in both parties to get thru this stalemate ASAP – we can’t wait longer.”
Pelosi’s games will hurt people
Thanks to Pelosi’s partisan gamesmanship, which is holding up vital funding for struggling small businesses in order to achieve the Democrats’ other goals that could be dealt with separately, some of those small businesses won’t last long enough to benefit from the program once it’s eventually refunded.
It appears that at least a few Senate Democrats have realized the unnecessary economic devastation Pelosi’s games will cause and have wisely decided to abandon her partisan stance. The question is, will Pelosi change her mind?