WASHINGTON -- A day after the Senate passed a last-minute extension of the Paycheck Protection Program loan application deadline, the House did the same Wednesday, clearing the bill for the president.
Somewhat unexpectedly, the Senate by unanimous consent passed a bill on Tuesday from Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md., extending the Small Business Administration's forgivable loan program for coronavirus-impacted companies from June 30 to Aug. 8.
Senate Democrats had expected Republicans to object to the request for unanimous consent Tuesday night, but an agreement was reached at the last minute. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York gave an unusually partisan floor speech for a bipartisan achievement.
"Let me salute Sen. Cardin and Sen. Shaheen for bringing this measure to the floor and forcing our colleagues on the other side of the aisle to relent, who originally, of course, wanted to block this bill all day long," he said. Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire was among those speaking for the bill on the Senate floor.
The Senate passage appeared to catch House Democrats by surprise. The chamber could have scheduled a companion bill for a vote this week but didn't. Instead, the House relied on a risky unanimous consent procedure, which could have been blocked by any one of the 435 members.
Speaking earlier in the day, Rep. Nydia M. Velazquez, D-N.Y., the chairwoman of the House Small Business Committee, told reporters she was waiting for the administration to respond to her data requests before she wanted movement on legislation.
"We need to make an assessment whether or not the program has been successful and if it has done what Congress intended it to," she said. "Without data, we cannot make an assessment; that is my mind. Some people want to make all the changes. We need the data."
Velazquez pressed Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin for the data at a hearing Tuesday. Mnuchin said she'd have it by Friday.
Kevin Kuhlman, the vice president of federal government relations at the National Federation of Independent Businesses, wondered if the Democrats' unanimous consent request in the Senate was a political feint that the GOP saw through. Democrats issued an advisory in the afternoon giving journalists timing details for an "attempt" to pass the bill.
"It was almost like a trap that didn't work, like a head fake that no one went for," said Kuhlman.