KEY POINTS

  • Senators Mike Lee and Rand Paul say the process that led to the Senate's approving the new $484 billion relief fund is wrong
  • They contend the full Senate should have voted on the package
  • Sen. Mitch McConnell said no more rescue packages will be passed by consent

Resorting to unanimous consent or a voice vote, the Senate Tuesday approved the $484 billion coronavirus pandemic relief fund that provides federal aid to small businesses and hospitals -- and two Republican senators are objecting to the process.

Both senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah expressed dismay and a deep concern the Senate and their fellow Republicans approved the fund without a recorded vote. They wanted to bring back senators to vote in an official tally.

The Senate approved this deal, which was arrived at after 12 days of acrimonious wrangling, in an almost empty chamber. When the vote was taken, almost every senator had returned to their home states after signalling to party leaders they had no objection to passing the deal.

“We should not be passing major legislation, especially legislation providing nearly a half-trillion dollars in new spending without Congress actually being in session,” contended Lee. “This crisis is too big to leave up to a small handful of people.”

Paul said "even more alarming than the money is the idea that one senator can stand on the floor and pass legislation spending a half a trillion dollars and have no recorded vote and no debate."

Lee slammed majority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-KY, and the Senate leadership for not consulting with the majority of members on the measure. He blasted the deal as not a “true negotiation.” He claimed that senators leaving Washington allowed Democrats to “politicize” and “stifle legislation with impunity.”

“The American people need to know who is helping them and who is simply playing politics,” Lee said. “We can’t allow them to know that if we’re not in session.”

McConnell later agreed with both libertarians, saying it might be difficult to pass another major pandemic relief package by unanimous consent.

“I will predict that we will not try to pass another rescue package by consent,” said McConnell. “My view is we ought to bring everybody back, have full participation.”

The $484 billion in funding provides $310 billion into a key loan program created by the $2.2 trillion CARES Act intended to keep employees in small companies form being fired. The initial $350 billion in the Paycheck Protection Program signed into law in March was used-up last week.

lee_mike Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah. Photo: Reuters

The bill passed Tuesday also sets aside $60 billion for small lenders as part of the small business aid program. It allots $60 billion for Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster assistance loans and grants. It includes $75 billion in hospital relief and $25 billion for coronavirus testing.

The small business loans are forgivable if recipients use the money for wages, benefits, rent and utilities. The money quickly evaporated as larger companies ate-up the first round of funding.

Speaking ahead of the vote, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, called the bill “significantly better and broader” than the one Democrats blocked earlier this month. He said the new bill is more “effective’ and “inclusive.” He also noted it addressed additional priorities such as hospital funding and testing.