Senate passes $484 billion bill to replenish Paycheck Protection Program

The Senate passed another $484 billion in coronavirus rescue funding Tuesday.

Democrats are taking credit for the new round of stimulus spending, which aims to boost small businesses suffering in the pandemic, as well as provide funding for hospitals and testing, the Washington Examiner reported. Republicans had accused Democrats of holding the funding, which now heads to the House, hostage over political priorities.

Senate passes more coronavirus funding

The bill provides another $310 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), created to help small businesses fund their payrolls, as well as $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion for expanded testing. The PPP had run out of the funds originally earmarked for it in the massive, $2 trillion CARES act last week.

Republicans and Democrats battled over the funding for days. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) initially proposed $250 billion for the program, but Democrats said it didn’t go far enough to protect businesses owned by minorities from getting shut out by lenders, and they also sought to include additional funding for hospitals and state and local governments struggling to stay afloat.

The bill’s $310 billion for the PPP includes $60 billion for small lenders to that purpose, as well as $60 billion for disaster loans and grants. The package was passed unanimously by voice vote, which is easier than taking a roll call vote, despite objections from libertarian-leaning Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Mike Lee (R-UT) over the ongoing, bi-partisan spending spree to keep businesses from collapsing, as 22 million Americans have lost their jobs to draconian “stay at home” orders.

“Our recovery only comes when the quarantine has ended,” Paul said. “Sane, rational counsel should push for the quickest end possible.”

Dems try to take credit, after holding up funding

With President Donald Trump’s endorsement, the bill will now head to the House for passage on Thursday. Lawmakers, who are on recess, are expected to return to the Capitol for a roll call vote, according to the Examiner.

Looking back over days of negotiations, McConnell hammered Democrats for holding up funding by playing politics. “I am just sorry that it took my colleagues in Democratic leadership 12 days to accept the inevitable and that they shut down emergency support for Main Street in a search for partisan ‘leverage’ that never materialized,” he said.

But Democrats, who accused McConnell of trying to rush the bill with little debate, are now trying to claim credit. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that the Republican plan was “insufficient” and hailed their efforts to improve it.

“Democrats flipped this emergency package from an insufficient Republican plan that left behind hospitals and health and frontline workers and did nothing to aid the survival of the most vulnerable small businesses on Main Street,” they said.

More spending coming

The final bill does not include funding for state and local governments, which Democrats and governors have lobbied Donald Trump to provide. Trump has said that he wants that funding in the next round of coronavirus legislation, although McConnell has expressed some reserve about getting carried away with spending.

The bill’s passage comes as various governors express caution about opening their economies without first ramping up testing significantly. But this scenario is causing a catch-22 of sorts: with the economy closed indefinitely in many states, governors are also pleading for help with expanding deficits.

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