Congresswoman to lead discharge petition that would force Speaker Nancy Pelosi to bring PPP extension to the House floor, breaking political logjam
Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, of Washington’s 3rd Congressional District, intends to force a vote by the U.S. House to extend the lifeline Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) using a legislative maneuver called a discharge petition.
Last week, Herrera Beutler filed a formal resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives to allow expedited floor consideration of a bill to extend the PPP. According to U.S. House rules, the earliest she can file the formal petition is Friday (Sept. 25). After that, should the petition garner 218 signatures from representatives, the House will then be compelled to vote on whether to bring to the floor a previously introduced bill, authored by House Small Business Committee Ranking Member Rep. Steve Chabot (Ohio), to distribute the remaining $134 billion in current PPP reserves that are now sitting idle after the program’s Aug. 8 expiration.
Herrera Beutler criticized Speaker Nancy Pelosi for continuing to stall on bringing forth any bill that would distribute forgivable loans to small businesses failing because of COVID and COVID-related restrictions, and now dangerous wildfire conditions plaguing much of the Western United States.
“The Paycheck Protection Program has been a bridge for almost 9,500 small businesses in Southwest Washington alone, but if we fail to extend it immediately, it will have been a bridge to nowhere because small businesses remain on the brink of survival,’’ said Herrera Beutler, a Battle Ground resident. “I’ve introduced this discharge petition so we can go around Speaker Pelosi’s unwillingness to make the Paycheck Protection Program a priority, and rush aid to small businesses who desperately need it.”
Herrera Beutler is motivated in her attempts by the fact that almost 9,500 businesses in Southwest Washington have already accessed PPP loans. Reports indicate that her efforts have created a realistic path to force congressional action.
“The petition — called a discharge petition — is a tool of the House minority to force a vote on a bill that’s been languishing in committee,’’ reported POLITICO in its Sept. 18 POLITICO Playbook newsletter. “It will be up for signatures Sept. 25, and if every Republican signs, only 20 Democrats need to sign it to force a vote. If Republicans succeed, this will be a defeat for House Democratic leadership — it temporarily hands over the floor to Republicans.’’
The POLITICO report also indicated the potential for Herrera Beutler’s efforts to succeed could be an incentive for Pelosi “to get a deal’’ with Republicans on a second stimulus package.
The national publication, The Hill, just reported that several House Democrats are looking to buck Speaker Pelosi and sign onto Herrera Beutler’s effort: https://thehill.com/homenews/house/517691-centrist-democrats-strongly-considering-discharge-petition-on-gop-ppp-bill
The report indicated that the centrist Democrats — currently numbering about a dozen — are “strongly considering” the act of signing on to the discharge petition, according to a senior Democratic aide associated with the Democrats’ moderate wing.
That figure falls a handful short of the number of Democrats the Republicans need to reach the 218 signatures on their discharge petition — the tally required to force legislation to the floor.
But the number is growing, said the aide, as party moderates — including front-line members facing tough reelections in November — become increasingly frustrated with the inability of party leaders to reach a deal with the White House on another round of coronavirus stimulus.
If those centrist Democrats do peel away to join the GOP’s gambit, it could also have the political effect of undermining the hard-line negotiating strategy of Pelosi (D-Calif.), who is seeking a comprehensive, $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package — and has refused to break it apart to vote on any piecemeal provisions.
“Either Republicans do not understand the gravity of the situation or do not care about the needs of America’s working families,” Pelosi said Tuesday in a statement.
The PPP was created in March, as part of the CARES Act, to help small businesses survive the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus crisis. The program has delivered hundreds of billions of dollars in emergency loans, which are forgivable if the businesses keep much of their staff on the payroll. But the initiative expired last month, and millions of small businesses around the country are struggling to persevere as the number of U.S. coronavirus deaths has topped 200,000, millions of people remain out of work and consumers remain wary of gathering in public spaces.