Pelosi, McCarthy still at odds over depleted small business relief program

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Pelosi, McCarthy still at odds over depleted small business relief program

House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy insisted Democrats should replenish a popular small business relief program now – with no extra funding for hospitals and local governments attached – while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused Republicans of turning their backs on the pressing needs of their states in back-to-back news conferences Thursday.

Their differences illustrated there will be no immediate vote an interim coronavirus package in the House.

Meanwhile, President Trump held bipartisan calls with House members and senators Thursday on the coronavirus response and took to Twitter afterward, accusing Democrats of “killing’”small businesses that are dependent on the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that Congress authorized last month in the massive $2.2 trillion CARES Act.

The demands for additional small business funds come as the Trump administration announced Thursday they cannot accept any more applications. All the $350 billion for the original PPP program has been allocated through more than 1.6 million approved loans.

“The SBA is currently unable to accept new applications for the Paycheck Protection Program based on available appropriations funding,” the Small Business Administration said Thursday. “Similarly, we are unable to enroll new PPP lenders at this time.”

Republicans and the Trump administration want Democrats to pass a quick one-page $250 billion infusion of cash to the program that gives struggling small businesses up to $10 million in forgivable loans to make their payrolls. The GOP effort already failed in the Senate last week as Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer have demanded an additional $250 million that would help hospitals and state and local governments and contain changes to the small business relief program to help disadvantaged and minority-owned businesses.

Pelosi signaled Thursday the battle lines still stand: Democrats want to help small businesses, but also don’t want to pass over the “self-evident” needs of hospitals and state governments whose requests  are “urgent now.”

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She asked Republicans: why would they go to the floor to help small businesses, but turn their back on the state governments and hospitals on the front lines pleading for more money to fight the pandemic?

“We’re willing to give them that money, but we also need the other money. … The question is of the Republicans: Why are you ignoring your state?” she told reporters.

“How can we ignore their pleas for help … when they are on the front line?” she added.

But McCarthy pointed to the new astounding jobless numbers that showed an additional 5.25 million Americans filed for unemployment, bringing the grand total up to nearly 22 million Americans out of work in the last month of the pandemic.

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“I cannot understand after watching another 5 million get unemployed how Speaker Pelosi continues to say no,” McCarthy said in a press call with reporters.

Republicans contend that other priorities can be funded down the road, but the small business loan program is the only one that requires immediate action.

Asked by a reporter why not just give Pelosi a fig leaf for the additional $250 million to get the business program replenished, McCarthy scoffed: “The question should really be to Nancy Pelosi. Can’t you give a fig leaf to America and just say, yes.”

Pelosi said she and Schumer continue to negotiate with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on the additional coronavirus relief measures.

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If they can strike an “interim” deal on the small business front, legislation could come to the floor “before the end of the month,” Pelosi said.

But Democrats and the White House are still eyeing another huge stimulus package that could include infrastructure spending that lawmakers are referring to as “Phase Four” of their coronavirus response. The date for that legislation would be well beyond the interim bill, Pelosi said Thursday.

Fox Business Network’s Hillary Vaughn contributed to this report. 

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