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Senators will either have to return to Washington or get negotiating to get the next round of coronavirus relief funding flowing.
With just four senators in the chamber on Thursday, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) blocked a unanimous voice vote in favor of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's $250 billion small business loans bill. Cardin called the bill a "political stunt," and reiterated congressional Democrats' demands for greater accountability and diversity in how the bill would be spent.
Cardin's opposition didn't come as a surprise, seeing as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) unveiled Democrats' demands for the bill on Wednesday. They'd like to see that $250 billion doubled, with an extra $100 billion going to hospitals, community health centers, and health systems; $150 billion for state and local governments; and an additional 15 percent support added to SNAP food stamp benefits. They also demanded that half of the small business loans "serve farmers, family, women, and minority and veteran-owned small businesses and nonprofits in rural, tribal, suburban, and urban communities."
Senators have largely scattered back to their home states amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Without a provision for remote voting, any actions Congress wants to take have to be done without opposition.