A legislative maneuver that could force one portion of a COVID-19 relief package to the House floor is being spearheaded by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler.
This week, the Republican congresswoman from Battle Ground started the process of filing a discharge petition that would force a standalone vote on extending the Paycheck Protection Program. The PPP expired on Aug. 8.
The petition needs signatures from 218 representatives -- that's all the Republican members, plus 20 Democrats -- before the House is compelled to act. They'd vote on a bill previously introduced by Republican Rep. Steve Chabot from Ohio that would distribute $134 billion in remaining PPP reserves.
The PPP provides small businesses with loans to pay their employees during emergencies, and then forgives those loans if the employer shows they've maintained their payroll. Over the last few months, it's been one of Herrera Beutler's key COVID-19 recovery issues.
In a media release Thursday, Herrera Beutler called the PPP "a bridge for almost 9,500 small businesses in Southwest Washington alone."
"If we fail to extend it immediately, it will have been a bridge to nowhere because small businesses remain on the brink of survival," Herrera Beutler said.
Herrera Beutler also criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for what she called her "unwillingness to make the Paycheck Protection Program a priority."
Discharge petitions are one tool the minority party in the House can use to yank a bill out of committee and onto the floor. As reported in POLITICO Friday, if Herrera Beutler's petition succeeds it would temporarily wrest control from Congressional Democrats -- which looks bad for them -- and potentially provide more leverage for Republicans in negotiating a broader deal.