Democratic Senate candidates are dodging the debate over government loans for small businesses as congressional Democrats hold funding for the exhausted Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) hostage for concessions on progressive priorities.
Former two-term Colorado governor and 2020 presidential candidate John Hickenlooper is now seeking the Democratic Senate nomination against Republican incumbent Cory Gardner this fall and was a small business owner himself. Often identified as a business-friendly Democrat, the former governor’s campaign website is littered with references to small-businesses even acknowledging last week in a newly unveiled multi-point plan for coronavirus recovery that “half of small businesses only have about a two-week cash buffer before they collapse.”
“We must accelerate our efforts to enable small businesses to keep workers on payroll, help households and small businesses survive, and build resilience and the foundation for a restart of our economy,” Hickenlooper wrote.
Hickenlooper however, made no mention of Republicans’ proposal for a clean funding bill that would do just that.
As it became clear that the $350 billion set aside for small businesses in the PPP was nearing depletion, Republicans on Capitol Hill proposed replenishing the program with another $250 million. Democrats blocked the measure with a counterproposal of their own, wanting to direct money towards hospitals, local governments, and minority communities.
On Sunday, Pelosi told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos Democrats were holding up life-support for small businesses to “get as much as we can.”
Other Democrats have remained silent on the issue. Army veteran and former State Senator Cal Cunningham who is challenging incumbent Sen. Tom Tillis in North Carolina has yet to weigh in on fresh assistance for sinking small businesses. Former fighter pilot Amy McGrath, who is challenging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, has not responded to multiple Federalist requests for comment.
In Michigan, Democratic Sen. Gary Peters who faces a competitive re-election battle this fall, criticized Republicans during an MSNBC appearance on Monday arguing that too much money went to bigger businesses leaving smaller companies in limbo.
“We need to be focused on those businesses that are most damaged – folks that need the help the most,” Peters said, conceding that there isn’t much time to waste. “Help can’t wait much longer.”
Republicans meanwhile, are hammering Democrats for stalling needed assistance and taking aim at Pelosi for eating expensive ice cream in front of a $24,000 refrigerator as she blocks small business relief.
After Democrats blocked more funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, many Americans' refrigerators are nearly empty.
Nancy Pelosi doesn't care. She’s got a $24,000 fridge full of $13-per-pint ice cream. #NancyAntoinette pic.twitter.com/DvI4NXI6sM
— Trump War Room (@TrumpWarRoom) April 21, 2020
“Question for Nancy Pelosi: How many more jobs will you eliminate while you and your fellow Democrats continue to block more funding for the Paycheck Protection Program?” wrote Republican National Committee Rapid Response Director Steve Guest in an email to reporters Monday.
While most Democratic Senate candidates run away from the issue, others are calling for immediate relief to save small businesses amid the crisis where more than 22 million Americans have already filed for unemployment over four weeks.
On Thursday, former NASA Astronaut and business-owner Mark Kelly, who is seeking to unseat incumbent Republican Sen. Martha McSally in Arizona, condemned Washington politics for impeding efforts on getting relief to collapsing businesses.
“Washington needs to get out of its own way, immediately put more resources into this program, and fix some of the issues that have made it harder for Arizona small businesses to get this relief,” Kelly said in a statement.
A spokesperson for M.J. Hegar, an Air Force veteran challenging incumbent Republican Sen. John Cornyn in Texas echoed comments to RealClearPolitics on Tuesday.
Hegas “has been clear that Washington needs to put politics aside and provide immediate relief for Texas small businesses,” the campaign said.