Senate leaves for break without passing Paycheck Protection Program fix

The Senate left for a weeklong Memorial Day recess without passing bipartisan legislation to make fixes to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). 

Senate GOP leadership began to “hotline” the legislation, a procedural move that allows them to see if any senator would object to passing it, on Thursday, with Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, predicting it could pass on Thursday if no senator objected. 

But the Senate adjourned on Thursday for the break without passing the legislation, which would extend the window for businesses to spend PPP money from eight weeks to 16 weeks.

As the legislation stands currently, businesses have to spend the money within eight weeks to qualify for loan forgiveness. 

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the chairman of the Small Business Committee, said that leadership was still trying to find out if any senator objected to passing the bill and left the door open to the Senate passing it during a pro forma session that is scheduled to be held on Friday, Tuesday and next Thursday. 

“It’s going to pass. It’s just how long it takes to run the hotline and get all the offices to call back,” he said. 

Rubio added that because every office is called during a hotline, “It could take two hours or it could take two days, it just depends. It’s a very mysterious process.”

Sen. Ben Cardin (Md.), the top Democrat on the panel, also predicted that the fix could be passed during a pro forma session. 

“Hopefully within in the next couple days, we can have a bicameral understanding, and get it done hopefully by UC,” Cardin said, adding that it was “possible” it could pass next week. 

The PPP was created as part of March’s $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill. It gives loans to businesses with fewer than 500 employees, and gives them an eight-week window to spend the money. 

But senators warned that they were worried some companies would not be able to spend the funds in that timeframe. 

The legislative fix, which was introduced on Thursday by Rubio, Cardin and Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), would extend the window for the money to be spent. 

It would also extend the deadline for applying for a PPP loan and let part of the loans go toward purchasing protective equipment. 

The House voted to extend the eight-week window to 24 weeks as part of last week’s roughly $3 trillion HEROES Act, and the chamber is also expected to vote on a stand-alone PPP bill next week. 

Rubio, asked about the House proposal of 24 weeks, said there weren’t “insurmountable” differences. 

“We’ll have to see if they can amend theirs to reflect ours,” he said. “I don’t think the differences between the House and Senate on this issue are insurmountable. I think they’re semantic and maybe a couple of weeks here or there, but that wouldn’t be the reason why this doesn’t get done.” 

Updated 9:16 p.m.

Tags Ben Cardin coronavirus relief Jeanne Shaheen John Thune Marco Rubio Paycheck Protection Program SBA Susan Collins

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