WASHINGTON — Deficit-concerned senators blocked the Senate from considering a $48 billion aid package for restaurants and other small businesses Thursday, likely dealing a fatal blow to a months-long effort to provide a final round of relief for industries that suffered major revenue losses during the pandemic.
The Senate did not invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to the small-business aid bill, in a 52-43 procedural vote that was subject to a 60-vote threshold.
All but five of the 50 Senate Republicans voted against cloture, which was more than enough to mount a successful filibuster to prevent the Senate from even considering the measure for debate.
Senate Small Business Chairman Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md., and Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., worked on the small-business aid package for months. The duo drew on past bipartisan proposals in an attempt to spread benefits far and wide, offering relief to stakeholders ranging from stage, lighting and sound providers for live events to minor league sports franchises.
“We must pass this legislation to keep these vital parts of America’s economy and America’s social and community life going,” Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer said on the floor Thursday before the vote. “When minor league teams closed, entire towns have fewer options for coming together. When theaters can’t open because businesses they rely on closed down, it disintegrates the fabric of our communities.”
‘Fits and starts’
Through a period of what Cardin called “fits and starts,” he and Wicker remained optimistic that the bipartisan support needed to pass the bill would materialize once it was brought to the floor.
But as the test vote drew closer, it was apparent they wouldn’t get to 60 votes. So Cardin made a last-ditch offer to cut the size of the package and allow for an open amendment process in hopes of winning over hesitant senators.
“We believe we’ll be able to get the cost of this bill down, but we first need to get on the bill,” Cardin said, citing various offers from senators on both sides of the aisle with ideas on how to more narrowly target the measure.
One of those was an amendment from Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., that he said would limit aid to business owners who incurred debt in order to stay afloat during the pandemic. Manchin said he voted for cloture because of a commitment from Cardin that his amendment would be considered.