WASHINGTON — All of Alabama’s representatives, along with all but one member of the House, voted for a bill designed to plug holes in previous paycheck protection legislation.
On May 28, the House voted 417 for and one against to pass HR 7010, which would change the Paycheck Protection Program to correct deficiencies uncovered since it was enacted March 27 to help companies with fewer than 500 employees stay in business and retain workers during the pandemic. The vote sends the bill to the Senate.
Congress has appropriated $649 billion for the PPP, but at least $100 billion of that money has not yet been distributed because of program flaws addressed by this bill.
In its original form, the PPP funded two-year, 1% Small Business Administration loans, which would be converted to grants if the recipient company, in an eight-week span, used at least 75% of the sum for payroll costs and the remainder for utility and rent or mortgage payments. This bill extends the spending window to 24 weeks and changes the allocation ratio from 75-25 to 60-40. In addition, the bill would:
- Allow companies to include laid-off workers who have received “good faith” rehiring offers to be included in the payroll count for satisfying loan-forgiveness requirements. One effect of this provision would be to allow those out of work to collect a full allotment of state- and federally funded unemployment checks before returning to their employer’s payroll.
- Establish a safe harbor for businesses, including restaurants, that are required to open at limited capacity in order to comply with social-distancing rules. These companies would receive more time to achieve staffing levels necessary to have their loan converted to a grant.
- Allow companies to keep IRS payroll-tax benefits, including deductions, for the portion of a worker’s pay funded by a PPP loan that is later converted to a grant.
Fred Upton, R-Mich., said: “As much as all of us wanted this nightmare to end by Easter, we are now past Memorial Day, and those small businesses are still not open … and they can’t possibly meet that 75% standard … to convert that loan to a grant. So without the changes in this bipartisan bill, (the PPP) instead will be an anchor that will take them down.”
No member spoke against the bill. The negative vote was cast by Thomas Massie, R-Ky.
A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.
Voting yes: Bradley Byrne, R-1, Martha Roby, R-2, Mike Rogers, R-3, Robert Aderholt, R-4, Mo Brooks, R-5, Gary Palmer, R-6, Terri Sewell, D-7
Voting no: None
Here’s how area House members voted on other issues during the legislative week ending May 29. The Senate was in recess.
Requiring Transparency in Coronavirus Funding
Voting 269 for and 147 against, the House on May 28 failed to reach a two-thirds majority needed to pass HR 6782, which would require the Small Business Administration to set up a publicly accessible database of recipients of Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Assistance loans over $2 million and their number of employees. The database also would have to enumerate companies receiving SBA coronavirus aid that are owned by women, minorities and veterans. There is presently no public resource for tracking the distribution of at least $725 billion in coronavirus loans and grants this year to companies, non-profits and the self-employed.
Nadia Velazquez, D-N.Y., said the listing “is precisely the kind of data Congress needs to ensure the (money) is reaching those communities and businesses that need it most.”
Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, said bill “attempts to name and some would say shame businesses that acted in good faith and followed the law and the guidelines. I do not believe those businesses should be put on display for potential shaming.”
A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.
Voting yes: Brooks, Sewell
Voting no: Byrne, Roby, Rogers, Aderholt, Palmer
Extending Domestic Surveillance Authority
Voting 284 for and 122 against, the House on May 28 sent a five-year extension (HR 6172) of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to conference with the Senate. The House had been poised to send the bill to President Trump on a bipartisan vote. But Republicans abruptly withdrew support after Trump asked them to do so for reasons related to the FBI’s use of FISA warrants to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. So House Democrats arranged this vote to send the bill to additional negotiations with the Senate. The bill would renew FISA provisions related to domestic surveillance that require periodic congressional renewal because of their clash with civil liberties.
In part, the bill prohibits the use of FISA Section 215 to obtain GPS and cell-phone locations; requires the attorney general to approve in writing FISA warrants issued against elected officials or candidates, and expands civil liberties’ protections for domestic religious institutions, public officials, news organizations and other parties targeted or innocently swept up in FISA probes.
Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said: “Republicans abandoned this bipartisan (bill) for one reason and one reason only: The president tweeted, on a whim, and told them to oppose this bill. This is just one more example of how the president and his enablers in this body have stood in the way of national security, of civil liberties. I refuse to let our efforts to reform FISA die simply because Republicans are unwilling to stand up to the president’s whims.”
Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, said: “Go reread the Fourth Amendment. We are not supposed to authorize searches and seizures against Americans without the proper due process, without a probable cause and without particularly describing the places to be searched and what to be seized. And the FISA court has violated that. A vote to go to conference is a total abdication of this body’s job to put out a good bill that does reform.”
A yes vote was to send the bill to a House-Senate conference.
Voting yes: Roby, Rogers, Sewell
Voting no: Byrne, Aderholt, Brooks, Palmer
KEY VOTES AHEAD
The Senate will vote on judicial and executive-branch nominations in the week of June 1, while the House will be in recess.