House Democrats Push for Union COVID-19 Relief Funding

April 17, 2020

As the $350 billion small business loans/grant program ran dry, House Democrats and their leadership pledged to qualify labor unions for assistance in the next round of funding.

Phase 3.5 and 4:  Republicans are trying to add funding to the Small Business Administration’s $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program, which ran out of money Thursday morning.  The Democrats realize the additional $250 billion Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is requesting may be the only legislative train leaving the station until the end of May, and are demanding an additional $100 billion for hospitals, $150 billion for state and local governments, and more money for food stamps.  In the meantime, congressional leaders continue to argue over the upcoming fourth phase of pandemic relief legislation.

Outlook:  Congress will not return to Washington until at least May 4.  Thus, any legislation between now and then must have the unanimous support of all members.  With the small business loan program having run out of money, a bill to replenish that account is likely to move.  However, there are two big questions:  

  • First, how successful will the Democrats be at getting concessions from the Republicans for more money beyond small businesses and expanding eligibility to include other non-profit groups?  A coalition of unions, chambers of commerce, and credit unions—all excluded from the benefits—could be hard to deny.  As of this writing, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy indicated he would be open to including additional hospital funding in the bill.

  • And second, will a lone member gum up the fast-track legislative process like Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) did during the Phase 3 vote?  His protests mandated half the House return to Washington to form a quorum.  Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) thwarted his attempt by ensuring a socially distant quorum was present by seating members in the House galleries.  Anyone who would try to outfox Pelosi on procedure may discover you don’t get to be Speaker without adept knowledge of House rules.