Schumer Floor Remarks In Advance Of Republican Senator Blocking Senate Dems’ Effort To Pass Additional Oversight For Coronavirus Related Small Business Lending Programs

May 5, 2020

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today took to the Senate floor with Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) to attempt to immediately pass legislation for desperately-needed oversight of the new small business lending program. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) objected to the unanimous consent motion. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks:  

Over the past few months, both parties have worked together to provide historic levels of funding to help small businesses retain employees, meet payroll, and stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Paycheck Protection Program, the main instrument to help small business, received $349 billion under the CARES Act and another $310 billion in supplemental legislation.

The public has a right to know how this money is being spent. Oversight, transparency, and accountability are crucial because from the moment the administration began implementing these funds, it became clear much of it wasn't going to those who needed it most.

So today we are not taking any other action on the floor dealing with COVID, so we thought we would take this opportunity to ask unanimous consent to get something real done that should have bipartisan support on both sides of the aisle.

Who can be against transparency? Who can be against accountability? Who can not want to know where close to $700 billion of the taxpayers' money is going? Is it going to the right places?

Unfortunately, today at least 200 publicly traded companies have managed to secure PPP loans, and most of those are not very small, including some companies whose owners are large contributors to President Trump.

Truly small businesses, however—the hundreds of thousands of mom and pop shops with less than 20 employees, the proverbial restaurant owner or the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker—have been mostly shut out because they didn't have a standing relationship with a big bank. There have been great disparities when it comes to minority-owned businesses. According to the Center for Responsible Lending, over 90% of African American-owned and Latino-owned businesses were likely shut out of PPP funding. Women-owned businesses have also been neglected. Now, we’ve tried to fix some of these problems in COVID 3.5, working closely with the Senators from Maryland and New Hampshire and the Senator from Florida, but much more needs to be done.

We need data to help further inform who is being left out, so we can continue to make the necessary fixes to see that all small businesses are helped.

Now, my friends, Senators Cardin and Shaheen, have a bill that they have worked on to do just that. So I want to thank them, and they will talk more about this bill in a moment. But I want to make one point here.

This is a very simple piece of legislation. It requires the kind of transparency expected from any federal program of this size and importance. Regular public reporting of how and where taxpayer dollars are spent. This is something my Republican colleagues have always believed in. So I hope that my Republican colleagues won't object to this legislation when I ask unanimous consent in a few minutes after Senators Cardin and Shaheen have spoken. I hope they won't object just because it comes from this side of the aisle. It's a good idea. There's no reason to object to this very unobjectionable idea and get this body focused on COVID, not on extraneous matters which we seem to be doing now when COVID is the most important issue we face.

We are doing quite literally nothing else on the floor of the Senate today. There is no other business before us, no votes whatsoever. So we're here to force some action, force some progress, and force some focus on COVID-related legislation.

I’d prefer to do this in a completely bipartisan way, but from the get-go, Democrats have had to force the issue on many COVID response programs. The leader lays down a bill, it has no democratic input, and then of course we have to work towards that goal, and we have. And the fact that the first bill passed 96-0 is a tribute to this body that we can come together when there is real need.

We should be doing it the same way today. We should be doing it the same way today. We should be working together for support of our health care system, for testing so desperately needed, unemployment insurance and crucial improvements to small business lending. All of which Democrats said we needed. Our Republican friends first resisted and then came along, led by the Republican Leader, and all of which passed with unanimous support. The same thing should happen today. We should pass this. We should UC it and get the oversight that this program so desperately needs.

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