House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday lauded the Senate’s approval of a new $480 billion coronavirus relief package for small businesses and hospitals, resisting criticism from Republicans who had called for swifter action to shore up the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, that ran out of money last week.
The relief package, which cleared the Senate in a voice vote, includes $320 billion aimed at replenishing the PPP, which Congress created in the $2.2 trillion relief package passed at the end of March to provide emergency loans to small businesses. Faced with overwhelming demand for the loans, the program’s original pot of funding — $349 billion — dried up after just 13 days.
Recent investigations by the Associated Press and other news outlets also revealed that publicly traded companies and companies with over 500 employees were among the businesses approved for loans through the PPP. Pelosi told PBS NewsHour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff on Tuesday that she had rejected a Republican push that would have only refilled the program’s coffers, without taking any further actions.
“We needed to do more and adjust for those who were underserved by it,” Pelosi said. “We consider this very positive and a good use of the time that it took.”
Republican leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, also supported the relief package passed by the Senate, but they have been chiding Democrats for not taking a speedier, simpler approach to legislating additional relief funds.
“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,” McConnell said in a statement.
Pelosi said the House would vote on the relief package on Thursday.
Other highlights from the interview:
- Who else will receive aid in this proposal? Some of the new funding for the PPP will be set aside for smaller banks and credit unions, in hopes of ensuring that smaller businesses that struggled to access funding from the last relief package get money. “We want to see the data, to see how this is working … to make sure that we are reaching those who are the lifeblood of our economy,” Pelosi said.
- When the House takes up this relief package on Thursday, Pelosi said members who want their votes recorded will have to appear in person, and will not be able to vote through proxies. She said voting through proxies would require a change to the House’s rules, which House members would have to vote on first. That means that House members currently scattered across the country will have to make the trip to Washington amid the pandemic and stay-at-home orders.