Subsidies for restaurants and small businesses blocked in the Senate

WASHINGTON — Deficit-worried senators on Thursday blocked the Senate from considering a $48 billion relief package for restaurants and other small businesses, likely dealing a fatal blow to a months-long effort to provide a final round relief to industries that have suffered significant revenue losses during the pandemic.

The Senate did not invoke closure on the motion to proceed with the Small Business Relief Bill, in a 52-43 procedural vote subject to a 60-vote threshold.

All but five of the 50 Senate Republicans voted against cloister, which was more than enough to stage a successful filibuster to prevent the Senate from even considering the measure for debate.

Senate Small Business Chairman Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md., and Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., worked for months on the small business relief program. The duo took inspiration from past bipartisan proposals to try to spread the benefits widely, offering relief to stakeholders ranging from stage, lighting and sound providers for live events to minor league sports franchises.

“We must pass this legislation to maintain these vital elements of the American economy and of American social and community life,” Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer said Thursday ahead of the vote. “When minor league teams shut down, entire towns have fewer options to come together. When theaters can’t open because the businesses they rely on have closed, it disintegrates the fabric of our communities. »


During a period of what Cardin called “hitting and going,” he and Wicker remained optimistic that the bipartisan support needed to push the bill through would materialize once it was introduced.

But as the test vote approached, it was obvious that they would not get 60 votes. Cardin therefore made a last-ditch offer to reduce the size of the package and allow an open amendment process in hopes of winning over wavering senators.

“We believe we will be able to reduce the cost of this bill, but we have to tackle the bill first,” Cardin said, citing various offers from senators on both sides of the aisle with ideas on how to target the measure more closely.

One of them was an amendment by Joe Manchin III, DW.Va., which he said would limit assistance to business owners who have taken on debt in order to stay afloat during the pandemic. Manchin said he voted for cloister because of a commitment from Cardin that his amendment would be considered.

Cardin’s advocacy worked on at least one GOP senator. Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski said earlier Thursday she was still undecided because while restaurants in her state are “still facing some pretty tough times,” she wanted to see the cost of the package come down. She ended up voting to move the bill forward.

But ultimately it was not enough. The only Republicans to vote for closure on the motion to proceed were Wicker, Murkowski, Susan Collins of Maine, Roy Blunt of Missouri and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.

“Louisiana has one of the highest per-capita restaurant presences for frequent tourists,” Cassidy said. “We had a COVID lockdown that is equal to any other city in New Orleans. And many of these companies are currently trying to cope with the high cost of labor, they have short hours, and so on.

In contrast, the other Louisiana senator, Republican John Kennedy, voted against moving the bill forward. Like others who opposed the measure, he voiced concerns about the growing deficit and inflation.

“I have a lot of sympathy for our restaurants, but at some point we have to stop spending money that we don’t have,” Kennedy said. “No one ever stands up here and says I have a bad idea and need money for it. These are all valid causes. But much of the inflation has been caused by the amount of spending done by Congress.

Barely a tenth of the $48 billion package has been paid, with $5 billion in unspent funds from the expired Paycheck Protection Program, a forgivable loan program first enacted in March 2020 that has helped small businesses keep their employees on the payroll.

For the real spending hawks who also opposed a $40 billion deficit-funded Ukraine aid package approved by the Senate earlier Thursday, it’s been a tough day.

“We sent $40 billion before lunch. They want to send another $48 billion after lunch,” Small Business Ranking member Rand Paul, R-Ky., said in remarks on the floor between the two votes. “Oh my God, we have an urgency we need to get minor league sports involved in the bailout as Americans across the country grow poor.”


The anchor of the package was $40 billion to fill a depleted subsidy scheme for restaurants, bars and other food and drink service providers passed early last year.

Wicker has long described providing that money to the so-called Restaurant Revitalization Fund out of “equity” because it wouldn’t reopen the grant program to new applicants, but instead give rewards to the roughly two-thirds of businesses that turn up. qualified for the initial round but did not receive any money until the allocated $28.6 billion was exhausted.

In an effort to learn from past mistakes, Bill Cardin-Wicker called on the Small Business Administration to apportion grants on a pro-rated basis, if necessary, to ensure that every qualified applicant receives funds.

The remaining $8 billion would have been used for smaller subsidy programs for other industries that were excluded from previous relief laws:

• $2 billion to gymnasiums and fitness centres.

• $2 billion for live event services, such as companies that provide staging, lighting, sound and actors for theaters.

• $2 billion for transportation service providers, such as buses and ferries.

• $1.4 billion for very small businesses located within 50 miles of land ports of entry that have been closed due to the pandemic, with at least a third reserved for businesses located near the Mexican border and a another third to businesses close to the Canadian border.

• $500 million for minor league sports teams.

• $85 million for small businesses in Alaska, Washington and Minnesota that are geographically separated from the rest of the United States and were not accessible due to pandemic-related Canadian border closures.

Cardin and Wicker formally introduced their bill last month, the same week the House passed its own $55 billion small business relief package.

The House bill, which also has no apparent path to Senate passage, included $42 billion to fill the Restaurant Revitalization Fund and $13 billion for a gender-neutral subsidy program for “hard hit” businesses based on size and revenue loss.


Restaurant and small-business funders will likely continue to push for help in other much-needed vehicles, like a stalled $10 billion COVID-19 supplement for the government to buy more vaccines, therapeutic products and other supplies needed to respond to future virus variants or a spending package for fiscal year 2023.

But without more offsets, any effort to spend billions more on pandemic relief — after Congress has already earmarked more than $5 trillion for the effort since 2020 — will be met with resistance from the GOP.

“We never say never,” Cardin said. “I just don’t know how we’re going to be able to do it (do it). If we can’t get the votes now, why would we get them later? »

If Democrats are willing to admit the business relief package is dead, they could take its $5 billion PPP compensation and use it to add more spending to the COVID-19 relief package. There had been bipartisan interest in spending $5 billion to send vaccines and other supplies to vulnerable populations abroad, but international aid was cut due to a lack of agreement on compensation .

Other provisions of the Senate and House small business relief programs that do not cost money could also be easily added to other vehicles, such as language to extend the time available that businesses previously gave to closed site operators subsidies have to spend their money.

CQ-Roll Call writers David Lerman and Aidan Quigley contributed to this report.

Use the form below to reset your password. After you submit your account email, we’ll send you an email with a reset code.

” Previous

Following ”

Source link

Sandy A. Greer