Partisan fight threatens more aid to small businesses in U.S. Senate effort


FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Capitol dome is seen ahead of an expected vote in the impeachment trial of U.S. President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 5, 2020. REUTERS/Jim Bourg/File Photo/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Republicans and Democrats said they planned on Thursday to offer competing plans to beef up emergency loans to small businesses struggling with the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak, with neither likely to clear an initial procedural hurdle.

A senior Senate Democratic aide said Democrats “have a better alternative” to Republicans’ $250 billion in additional small business loans and aim to offer theirs to the full Senate.

While the Democrats’ plan embraces $250 billion in new government loan authority to small businesses proposed by Republican President Donald Trump, they want to attach a series of other initiatives that Republicans so far have refused to embrace.

The $250 billion would help replenish a $349 billion loan program for restaurants, hotels and an array of other small businesses struggling in an economy hobbled by the coronavirus.

With each side trying to ram their respective bills through the Senate on a fast track, if any one of the 100 senators objects to either plan, the legislation would be shelved.

Late on Wednesday, a senior Senate Republican aide said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would seek permission on Thursday to immediately approve Trump’s request, which was made earlier this week.

Democrats made a counteroffer of $250 billion for small business loans, but with new conditions on how the loans would be dispensed. They also proposed spending an additional $250 billion on new aid to hospitals and state and local governments dealing with the coronavirus outbreak.

With each side poised to block their opponents’ measures, a brief Senate session on Thursday was expected to produce no new coronavirus-response legislation for the time being.

Reporting by Richard Cowan; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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