GOP leaders link rising jobless claims to Pelosi delay on small business relief

House GOP Whip: “These small businesses don't have the time to wait on a new president or some political game by the speaker before they make a decision on whether or not they will close for good.”

Published: December 10, 2020 4:30pm

Updated: December 12, 2020 12:59am

As jobless claims rise, House Republican leaders are slamming Speaker Nancy Pelosi for not bringing a bill to the House floor months ago that would have re-opened billions of dollars in unused federal funds to aid struggling small businesses during the pandemic.

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise predicted the bill would get 400 votes if Pelosi allowed a vote.

The number of workers who filed for first-time unemployment benefits last week increased to 853,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday. This represented an increase of more than 100,000 compared to the previous week.

House Small Business Committee Ranking Member Steve Chabot, an Ohio Republican, proposed a bill in September that would allow small businesses to apply for $138 billion in unused Paycheck Protection Program funding. Lawmakers said the bill required no new funds to be spent but the legislation hasn't been passed in the Democratic-led House. California Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the top Republican in the House, accused Pelosi of putting politics before people.

“More than 30 times the Republicans have brought to the floor the ability to vote to bring assistance. More than 40 times the Democrats have said no,” he said on Thursday. “Today we hope that you will say yes. How many more businesses have to shutter? How many more dreams have to be shattered? How many more people have to be laid off before Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats will act?”

Pelosi said on Thursday that she is now open to passing a relief package smaller than the multi-trillion bills she has moved through the chamber since May, attributing the change to Joe Biden winning the election.

"Speaker Nancy Pelosi finally admitted to what every member standing behind me already knew; she sabotaged the COVID relief deal simply because of an election," McCarthy said. "She put politics before people. It was more important for her to hurt President Trump politically than to help the American people."

McCarthy said economic “devastation” has occurred while the unused PPP funds sat there. He called on Democrats to “stop playing politics” and pass relief for small businesses.

“This is the devastation that has happened since Speaker Pelosi sat on a solution — roughly one in five small businesses have closed, 110,000 American restaurants have already permanently shut their doors,” he said. “According to a recent survey from the National Restaurant Association, 500,000 restaurants of every business type, franchise, chain and independent, are on an economic free fall. These are more than just numbers. These statistics tell the story of real people who are fighting like hell, for their livelihoods and the livelihoods of their employees.”

Scalise said the GOP has been trying to get the House Democratic leadership to allow a vote on Chabot’s bill.

“If it was put on the suspension calendar, it would get, I would recommend, I'd suggest we would get over 400 votes on that bill. There's wide bipartisan support. And yet, as we see, Speaker Pelosi continues to play games. She admitted the other day, as our leader pointed out, that one of the reasons she won't bring up bills like this is because she's waiting for a new president,” he said.

“These small businesses don't have the time to wait on a new president or some political game by the speaker before they make a decision on whether or not they will close for good. We've already lost over 100,000 restaurants in America that will never reopen. A third of every single small business in the entire state of New York is gone for good,” he added.

Scalise mentioned Democrats like California Gov. Gavin Newson who have been spotted dining indoors without a mask during the pandemic.

“You've got some of these governors across the country that are telling you that you can't go to your local restaurant yet they're going to their favorite restaurant. That hypocrisy by these Democrat governors and mayors has to come to an end. It has to end now,” he said. “This is madness. This is insanity.”

Scalise said Pelosi should put Chabot’s bill on the floor without delay.

"We're calling on Speaker Pelosi to bring this bill to the floor to save all these small businesses who are dying on the vine and need this relief,” he said. “They need the relief today — not next week, not next month, not whenever Pelosi decides to stop playing games.”

In September, Michigan Republican Congressman John Moolenaar and Florida Republican Rep. Brian Mast were among the members who signed onto a discharge petition to force a House vote on the legislation to jumpstart PPP.

“Unfortunately, Speaker Pelosi let this program expire back in August with no plans to extend it. This is unacceptable, which is why I went to the House Floor this morning to sign what’s called a ‘discharge petition’ demanding a vote on a bill to extend this critical program for businesses all across the country,” Mast said in a statement in September. “If we get a majority of the House of Representatives to sign our petition, we can override Speaker Pelosi’s opposition and force a vote.”

The lawmakers have not been able to garner enough support among Democrats, who control the House, to force a vote on the PPP legislation.

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