WASHINGTON – The Republican-controlled Senate is set to vote on the reauthorization of the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses as Congress runs up against a Tuesday deadline to reach a deal on COVID-19 stimulus before the election. 

The bill reauthorizes another round of the small business loans but is likely to be blocked by Democrats, who have opposed standalone relief bills. 

Meanwhile, Congress and the White House face a Tuesday deadline to reach a deal before the election. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi set the deadline for both sides to reach a deal to restore urgently needed benefits before Nov. 3, saying Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” the deadline is for closing a deal before the election. 

Pelosi spokesperson Drew Hammill said Monday the speaker hoped she would “have clarity on whether we will be able to pass a bill before the election” by the end of Tuesday. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., criticized Pelosi Monday over the deadlock in negotiations. The Kentucky Republican compared Pelosi to Marie Antoinette and said her role in the negotiations was obstructing Congress from passing aid.

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“No more all or nothing. No more endless posturing. One clear good thing that nobody even says they oppose,” McConnell said of the PPP legislation. “It would make a huge difference for workers, who may otherwise be laid off.”

Both sides are struggling to reach a deal just weeks before the election, with Democrats and Republicans hundreds of billions of dollars apart in their proposals and unable to resolve major policy differences on COVID-19 testing, liability protections, and school funding. 

Congress last passed a comprehensive package in March, and many of the package’s provisions have since lapsed. The federal boost to unemployment benefits ran out in July, airline assistance expired in October, and Americans weathering an economic recession eagerly await another round of stimulus checks.

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President Donald Trump abruptly put an end to stimulus talks at the beginning of the month, telling Senate Republicans to instead focus on the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, but has since reversed course, reopening negotiations with congressional Democrats.

The PPP loans have helped keep many small businesses afloat during the pandemic but expired Aug. 8 and have not been authorized since then. Under the program, businesses with 500 or fewer workers were eligible for loans up to $10 million, which became forgivable if at least 60% of the amount is spent on payroll. The Senate’s bill would restart the loan program. 

Republicans in the Senate are also set to take up a $500 billion stimulus plan on Wednesday that would also reauthorize the PPP loans, reissue the federal boost to unemployment benefits, send over $100 billion to schools, and allocate funding for testing and vaccine development. 

The price tag of the bill is much lower than the roughly $1.8 trillion package the White House is negotiating and the $2.2 trillion package Democrats have offered. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the second-ranking Senate Republican, told reporters on Capitol Hill Monday “it would be hard ” to get enough Republicans to support a bill at $1.8 trillion 

Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin spoke on the phone Monday afternoon as the two sides crawled along towards a deal. Hammill said they “continued to narrow their differences” and are set to speak again on Tuesday. 

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID-19 stimulus: Senate to vote on PPP loans as deadline nears



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