Just as the House is set to vote — in person — Thursday on the $484 billion stimulus package that passed the Senate Tuesday, the House Rules Committee has approved setting up a select committee to oversee how the money is being spent.
The Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, H.R. 266, which the House will vote on, includes $320 billion for the PPP, $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion for COVID-19 testing. It also adds $50 billion for the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program and $10 billion for the SBA’s Emergency Economic Injury Grant program.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told Bloomberg News on Wednesday that the bill will pass “in a very strong bipartisan way.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said debate on H.R. 266 will begin at 1:30 p.m. with a vote to come after.
During a raucous hearing late Wednesday afternoon, the House Rules Committee approved setting up a Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis to assess the federal government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The subcommittee, which will be voted on by the full House on Thursday afternoon, will also ensure that the $320 billion that’s set to go to small businesses under the Paycheck Protection Program doesn’t get doled out to large corporations or banks.
Top Republican leaders on the House Committees on Ways and Means, Financial Services, and Energy and Commerce sent a letter to Pelosi Thursday opposing the Democrats’ plans to create ”a partisan and duplicative select subcommittee” to review the administration’s ongoing COVID-19 response.
The lawmakers told Pelosi that there are few available details about the new subcommittee, its structure and subpoena authority. The subcommittee “raise[s] serious concerns as to whether the select subcommittee is truly intended to conduct meaningful, bipartisan oversight and ‘not a kind of an investigation into the administration,’ as [Speaker Pelosi] initially stated.”
More than 100 public companies have taken PPP loans, according to MarketWatch. The law limits the loans to firms with fewer than 500 employees but contains exceptions for restaurant and hotel chains.
Next Stimulus Bill
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that the Senate would wait at least until May 4 to forge ahead on a new stimulus measure to include additional funds for state and local governments.
“We’re going to push the pause button here, because I think this whole business of additional assistance for state and local governments needs to be thoroughly evaluated,” McConnell said on the Hugh Hewitt show. “There’s not going to be any desire on the Republican side to bail out state pensions by borrowing money from future generations.”
McConnell’s remarks that states may have to go bankrupt horrified “lawmakers in both parties, who concede that a massive aid package for state and local governments will be necessary this summer,” Greg Valliere, chief U.S. policy strategist at AGF Investments, said in his Thursday morning email briefing.
In 1977, the Supreme Court ruled that state bankruptcies were unconstitutional.
Beginning to open up the country is “the only solution” the helping the states, McConnell told Hewitt. “Many governors are now looking at beginning to carefully reopen. And I think that’s the only way we can ultimately solve this problem, is to begin the process of getting back to normal.”
The Labor Department reported Thursday that more than 4 million Americans applied for unemployment insurance last week. More than 26 million people have filed for jobless benefits in the last five weeks.
Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia said that 44 states are now paying the $600 additional weekly benefit provided by the stimulus law enacted in March.
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