Centrist Democrats ‘strongly considering’ discharge petition on GOP PPP bill

A number of moderate House Democrats are on the cusp of endorsing a GOP resolution to force a vote on emergency aid for small businesses, according to sources familiar with the plan.

The centrist Democrats — currently numbering about a dozen — are “strongly considering” the act of signing on to a procedural measure, known as a discharge petition, designed to force floor action on legislation extending the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), said a senior Democratic aide associated with the Democrats’ moderate wing.

That figure falls a handful short of the number of Democrats the Republicans need to reach 218 signatures on their discharge petition — the tally required to force legislation to the floor.

But the number is growing, said the aide, as party moderates — including front-line members facing tough reelections in November — become increasingly frustrated with the inability of party leaders to reach a deal with the White House on another round of coronavirus stimulus.

If those centrist Democrats do peel away to join the GOP’s gambit, it could also have the political effect of undermining the hard-line negotiating strategy of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who is seeking a comprehensive, $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package — and has refused to break it apart to vote on any piecemeal provisions.

“Either Republicans do not understand the gravity of the situation or do not care about the needs of America’s working families,” Pelosi said Tuesday in a statement.

The PPP was created in March, as part of the CARES Act, to help small businesses survive the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus crisis. The program has delivered hundreds of billions of dollars in emergency loans, which are forgivable if the businesses keep much of their staff on the payroll. But the initiative expired last month, and millions of small businesses around the country are struggling to persevere as the number of U.S. coronavirus deaths has topped 200,000, millions of people remain out of work and consumers remain wary of gathering in public spaces.

With the negotiations stalled over another round of emergency coronavirus relief, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) is poised to submit a discharge petition on Friday to force a vote on legislation to extend the PPP window so that more than $130 billion in unspent funds can go out the door.

Sponsored by Rep. Steve Chabot (Ohio), senior Republican on the House Small Business Committee, the proposal targets the smallest small businesses — $25 billion is earmarked for those with 10 employees or fewer — while allowing certain other businesses to get a second PPP loan.

Discharge petitions rarely work, since it’s almost always the minority party that sponsors them, in the long-shot hope of attracting disgruntled members of the majority to buck their own party.

There are currently 198 Republicans in the House, plus one member of the Libertarian Party: Rep. Justin Amash (Mich.). If all of them endorsed Herrera Beutler’s petition, they would need 19 Democrats to join their cause for bring the Chabot bill to the floor.

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 Discharge petition Jaime Herrera Beutler Justin Amash Nancy Pelosi Paycheck Protection Program ppp Steve Chabot

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