Senate GOP blocks Democratic oversight bill for small-business aid

Greg Nash

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the chairman of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, blocked an attempt by Democrats to pass a bill that would require the Trump administration to report new details on how small-business aid is being dispersed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Rubio, speaking from the Senate floor, noted that some of the information Democrats have requested wasn’t required on the application for federal funding and that Congress should work with the Small Business Administration (SBA) to provide details on its own.

“Some of the demographic data is not on the application. It’s not even clear that they would be able to produce that for us unless they stopped the process, created a new application and then began to process that as well,” Rubio said.

He added that lawmakers should work with the SBA so administration officials are not “overburdened” by reporting requirements from Congress, warning that added requirements could have “unintended consequences.”

“I think the best path forward is, in my view, not to pass something like this today, although something like this may be necessary if we can’t get these numbers, but … let’s find out first and foremost, what data points do they have?” Rubio said. 

“What I don’t want to see is an already overburdened agency that’s small to begin with and is struggling to get all these programs running — I don’t want to see them have to pull people off getting people money to fill out this information,” Rubio said.

Democrats tried to pass a bill that would have created new oversight requirements for the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans. Under the Senate’s rules, any one senator can try to pass a bill by unanimous consent, but any one senator can object. 

The bill, according to a senior Democratic aide, would require daily and weekly reporting on the funding under the small-business programs, including details on geography, demographics and type of industry. 

Congress has passed roughly $660 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides loans to companies with fewer than 500 employees. The last measure approved by Congress included $60 billion for emergency disaster loans and grants.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who thanked Rubio for his work on the small-business program, countered that the more demographic information Congress could get could help improve the program. 

“About demographic information, I understand the problem, but there are a lot of ways to skin that cat. If we looked at zip codes, we might be very well, easily able to tell demographic information,” he said. 

Schumer noted that the coronavirus bill Democrats tried to pass would be the only virus-related legislation the Senate would try to take up this week in the midst of the pandemic. Congress has passed multiple relief packages in recent weeks totaling nearly $2.8 trillion.

Sen. Ben Cardin (Md.), the top Democrat on the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, said that while he was “proud” of the small-business aid programs, lawmakers still don’t know “the specifics on how this money was distributed.” 

“We’re all frustrated here, and I really appreciate the leadership. I know my chairman is on the floor. He’s been demanding this information and has been unable to get it,” Cardin said, referring to Rubio. “We’re going to be asked to act again without having the specific information?” 

“We’ve been asking for this information over and over again, and we haven’t been able to get it,” Cardin added. 

Tags Ben Cardin Charles Schumer Coronavirus Marco Rubio Paycheck Protection Program
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