WASHINGTON, DC — The floor of the House of Representatives looked eerily dystopian Thursday with many members of Congress wearing masks as they voted on the $484 billion Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Health Care Enhancement Act.
There were less fireworks than the vote over the more than $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act last month because Kentucky Congressman Thomas Massie wasn’t alone in his request for a recorded vote.
“They came around to my way of thinking. People came to work. I’m just happy Congress is working,” said Massie, a Republican.
The bill includes more than $320 billion to refurbish the small business loan program that’s come to be known as PPP. In effort to ensure it goes to businesses truly in need, Democrats fought for $60 billion of that pool to be set aside for rural and minority-owned companies.
“I heard Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin say he is going to make sure people follow the spirit and the letter of the law,” said Rep. Brett Guthrie (R) of Bowling Green, Kentucky.
It also includes $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion for coronavirus testing.
Some House Republicans who voted in support of the bill say this level of spending is not sustainable.
“I have concerns like every other taxpayer in America. I would love to see some offsets. We can’t keep printing money and spending money but then again we are in unprecedented times and there are lots of businesses that are eligible for this loan, that are worthy of this loan but the loan fund just simply ran out,” said. Rep. James Comer (R) of Tompkinsville, Kentucky.
This interim legislation does not include additional funding for states and local governments, setting up a showdown for the next relief package.
Congress also couldn’t agree on proxy voting. This means lawmakers will have to return to Washington if they decide to authorize more spending.
“I think until we open our economy back up, we are going to be coming back here every three or four weeks and just throwing more money at the problem,” said Massie.