Senate Republicans on Tuesday unveiled a “skinny” economic stimulus bill that calls for another round of Payroll Protection Program loans, a simplified loan forgiveness process and limited liability for businesses reopening during the coronavirus economic crisis.
The Senate is likely to vote on the bill later this week. It is unlikely the measure has the votes to pass, but it could serve as the next step in the haggling over the next stimulus legislation.
“Senators will not be voting on whether this targeted package satisfies every one of their legislative hopes and dreams,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) said, as he unveiled the bill. “That’s not what we do in this chamber.”
Democrats dismissed the measure. “This emaciated bill is only intended to help vulnerable Republican Senators by giving them a ‘check the box’ vote to maintain the appearance that they’re not held hostage by their extreme right-wing that doesn’t want to spend a nickel to help people,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said, in a joint statement.
With a price tag of about $500 billion, the bill is far less comprehensive than the bill the House passed in May and the Senate Republican bill unveiled earlier this summer.
The bill includes some funding for education and health programs, as well as some assistance for the U.S. Postal System, but does not include the funding boost Democrats want for state and local government. The Democrats also said the new Senate measure contains some “poison pills” that would doom the legislation.
For instance, Democrats have been steadfast in their opposition to providing legal liability protections for businesses that reopen following the pandemic. McConnell has said that is one of the Republicans’ top priorities for the next stimulus measure. Credit union trade groups have endorsed the idea of liability protection.
The Senate GOP bill also would allow some small businesses to apply for another PPP loan. Businesses would have to employ fewer than 300 people and must have suffered a drop of at least 35% in revenue during the first or second quarter of 2020.
The bill also would simplify the loan forgiveness process for businesses that have received a PPP loan of $15,000 or less. It would allow such businesses to have their loans forgiven if they sign a one-page document reporting on how the loan proceeds had been used.
With Congress also having to fund major parts of the federal government by the end of the month, it is unclear if, or when, Congress can come to an agreement on a stimulus bill.