Dem Senators Break With Leadership, Call for Immediate Small Business Funding

Tina Smith speaks as Richard Blumenthal, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Mark Warner listen / Getty Images
April 16, 2020

Two Democratic senators broke with their party's leadership Thursday to call for immediate funding for a now-depleted program to provide loans to small businesses affected by the coronavirus crisis.

"Minnesota small businesses need relief now," Sen. Tina Smith (D., Minn.) wrote in a tweet Thursday afternoon. "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."

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D., Ariz.) also tweeted that the Senate should approve additional funding by unanimous consent as soon as possible to help floundering small businesses.

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) ran out of money Thursday, a week after Senate Democrats blocked a Republican effort to provide the program with $250 billion in additional funding. Democratic lawmakers wanted to attach hundreds of billions in funding for state and local governments and for hospitals.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) has led negotiations for Senate Democrats with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Schumer tweeted that small businesses need money now, but any progress on funding the program stalled Thursday.

"Our small biz programs need more money now," Schumer wrote. Democrats "actually want to get it into the hands of all who need it."

Other Democratic senators have called Republican efforts to save the program a "political stunt." Sen. Brian Schatz (D., Hawaii) criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) for trying to replenish the fund but added that lawmakers should do so along with other legislative priorities.

Senators Doug Jones (D., Ala.) and Ben Cardin (D., Md.) accused McConnell of "dumping money" to try to stave off the program's bankruptcy.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) claimed her strategy to hold out on funding small businesses was part of her overall goal to be their "champions."

"It’s not that we don’t share the values of small businesses, we do, we have been their champions," Pelosi told reporters Thursday. "But in order for them to succeed, people have to be well, people need to be safe and we need to have state and local [funding]."