(USA Features) Senate Republicans hoped to pass a measure Friday that would provide an additional $250 billion in assistance for small businesses harmed by coronavirus-related shutdowns, but Democrats blocked it.
The move came as reports Friday noted that an additional 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment this week, raising the total number of workers laid off or furloughed since shutdowns began last month to more than 16 million.
Democrats objected to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s attempt to have the measure approved by unanimous consent. That would have allowed passage without requiring a majority of senators to travel back to Washington to vote in person.
Sen. Ben Cardin, a Democrat from Maryland — which borders Washington, D.C. — called the Kentucky Republican’s move a “political stunt.”
He said that $100 billion in small business loans have not yet been distributed through the Paycheck Protection Program, even though the money has been committed.
McConnell pleaded with colleagues to pass the measure but to no avail.
“My colleagues must not treat working Americans as political hostages,” he said.
“To my Democratic colleagues, please, please do not block emergency aid you do not even oppose, just because you want something more,” he continued.
“Nobody believes this is the Senate’s last word on COVID-19. We do not have to everything right now. We cannot play games with this crisis.”
Senate Small Business Chairman Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said the paycheck program was quickly running out of funds.
“We are seeing a rate of $3.5 billion an hour on a nearly $350 billion program,” Rubio said in a statement after Democrats objected.
“We have days, not weeks, until PPP runs out of money. Today’s unemployment numbers remind us that now is not the time for congressional horse trading or partisan politics,” he continued.
“Small businesses are being forced to lay off employees and close their doors. I really hope my Democratic colleagues will reconsider their decision to block more money for PPP.”