Rep. Scalise urges Dems not to 'play games' with relief bills, says Kennedy Center funding was a 'debacle'

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House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., encouraged Democrats not to “play games” as it pertains to the coronavirus emergency relief bills.

“Don't play games and say, ‘I will give you that and keep this successful program alive if you give me these other things, like the Kennedy Center debacle.’ We got to stay away from those kinds of games,” Scalise said on “America’s Newsroom” on Tuesday.

Scalise referenced the fact that Democrats insisted that funding for the Kennedy Center be included in the $2 trillion legislative package signed by President Trump last month meant to combat the coronavirus pandemic and send economic relief to workers and businesses squeezed by restrictions meant to stop the outbreak’s spread.

Scalise made the comment referring to the fact that a $250 billion urgent request to shore up a depleting small business fund failed to pass the Senate on Thursday, after Democrats objected to the measure pushed by the White House and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. 

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With lawmakers at home and social distancing, McConnell sought to pass the cash infusion swiftly by unanimous consent with a skeleton group of senators, but Democrats blocked the effort because they want add-ons to help businesses in disadvantaged communities and an additional $250 billion in funds for other priorities.

The extra funding to the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program is being sought amid concerns that the original $350 billion program to help businesses stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic could run dry in the near future in the face of an enormous demand.

Speaking on Fox Business on Tuesday, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said, “We’re now at 661,000 loans approved … $168 billion have been approved by this government guarantee…. that's one reason by the way our estimates are, we’re going to run out of money for the small business thing [on] April 17th that’s why we would like Congress to help us with an additional $250 billion.”

The stalemate in the Senate comes as a record-breaking number of Americans have filed for unemployment with the economy shutting down under stay-at-home orders.

“The president fought to make sure there would be a program that would help keep our small businesses together, help people hang on through this, both the businesses and the workers by the way, so that workers don't have to go up on the unemployment rolls and Medicaid, [so that] they can stay on their employer's payroll and their employer’s health insurance,” Scalise noted.

“We see now over a million companies in America have now applied for this program and the checks are going to be going out soon,” he continued. “Our local banks have done a phenomenal job at working with those local businesses. They don't want to see these small businesses go under because then all of a sudden you have a collapse of the fabric of our country and then you have all this extra debt so hopefully we can see the small businesses make it through this and the PPP as it's called, the Paycheck Protection Program, can get that extra $251 billion that the president’s called for.”

Scalise went on to say that “the Senate had a chance to get it done,” but a “list of demands” from Democrats prevented that from happening.

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“Hopefully we can get focused back on making sure this Paycheck Protection Program stays afloat, not just for the million businesses that already applied, but for the other maybe million businesses that are waiting to come,” Scalise added.

Fox News’ Marisa Schultz contributed to this report.