The Senate on Tuesday passed a nearly $500 billion coronavirus “Phase 3.5” relief bill that would replenish a small business rescue program known as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), provide hospitals with another $75 billion and implement a nationwide virus testing program to facilitate reopening the economy.
The measure passed by voice vote, which simply requires each side to holler “yay” or “nay,” with the louder side winning. Ahead of the bill’s passage, some Republicans voiced their frustrations that there was not a full roll call vote. This is not acceptable,” Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said on the Senate floor. “We should not be passing legislation … without Congress actually being in session.”
And, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., declared that Congress should stop “printing bailout cash” because the U.S. “can manage this disease without the draconian lockdown of the economy.” Announcing his opposition to the stimulus in no uncertain terms, he told colleagues: “We can’t continue on this course.”
At the same time, Paul noted that he “has not invoked the Senate rules to require a vote” by roll call — and was present only so that history would record that not every senator favored spending $484 billion.
Rep. Steny Hoyer, the House majority leader, said on a conference call with reporters that House votes would take place Thursday. He said the House will also vote on a proposal to allow proxy voting during the pandemic, a first for Congress, which has required in-person business essentially since its founding.
The new deal would provide more than $300 billion for the PPP, with $60 billion or so set aside — and divided equally — for smaller banks and community lenders that seek to focus on under-banked neighborhoods and rural areas. Another $60 billion would be available for a small-business loans and grants program delivered through an existing small-business disaster aid program, $10 billion of which would come in the form of direct grants.