WASHINGTON – Democrats narrowly passed through the House Friday a $3 trillion coronavirus relief package that exposed some division within their ranks even as Republicans overwhelmingly voted against it amid a veto threat from the White House.
Fourteen House Democrats opposed the bill, most of them moderates representing GOP-leaning districts. One Republican, retiring Rep. Peter King of New York, voted for the measure, which passed 208 to 199.
The bill, which would steer billions to financially socked states and local governments and provide a second round of direct payments to millions of Americans, was panned by Senate Republicans and declared “dead on arrival” by President Donald Trump.
More help will eventually come, Trump said Friday, but “it’s going to happen in a much better way.”
In addition to attacking the bill as a “liberal wish list,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and other Republicans say they want to see the results of the trillions of stimulus dollars already approved before they take up another package.
“There are elements in it, working with Republicans, that could pass,” Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, a Republican on the House spending committee, said as the House wrapped up debate. “There’s lots of other things in here that aren’t gonna.”
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But after laying down their marker, Democrats hope pressure to act will continue to build as states face massive budget holes and millions more Americans continue to file for unemployment benefits.
“It’s always interesting to me to see how much patience some people have with the pain and suffering of other people,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. “Let’s take a pause? Do you think this virus is taking a pause? Do you think that the rent takes a pause?”
That argument was not persuasive for some Democrats facing difficult re-elections in districts Trump easily won.
“This bill strays far beyond delivering relief or responding to an urgent crisis, & it has no chance at becoming law,” tweeted Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va.
Meanwhile, some progressives were unhappy that provisions they pushed for – such as covering three months of payroll costs for businesses – were not included.
“We’re going to see mass unemployment numbers continue to rise,” said Washington state Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the Democrat behind the paycheck guarantee proposal and the only prominent progressive to vote against the bill.
Both parties are using the bill as election-year fodder.
Republicans are attacking vulnerable House Democrats for backing a bill “with an astonishing $3 trillion price tag” that includes “far left ideas like stimulus checks for illegal immigrants.” The bill’s expansion of the direct payments to individuals that were included in an earlier package would allow undocumented residents to be compensated. Some endangered Democrats voted for an unsuccessful GOP attempt to send the measure back to committee to remove that provision.
For their part, Democrats are putting pressure on vulnerable Senate Republicans like North Carolina’s Tom Tillis.
“Does Tillis agree with McConnell that there’s no ‘urgency’ to act?” the North Carolina Democrat Party asked in a press release this week.
McConnell said Thursday another bill “probably is going to be necessary.” But he declined “to put a precise date on when that will be.”
“Forget about this $3 trillion left-wing wish list that even House Democrats are criticizing,” McConnell tweeted Friday. “Republicans are focused on practical solutions like legal liability protections for medical workers and the schools, universities, and businesses that will be trying to re-open.”
King, the New York Republican who voted for the bill, told Fox News that his hard-hit state will “absolutely collapse” without an infusion of federal aid.
“I can be as much a red state person as anyone,” he said. “But now we’re talking about survival. And this is no place for politics.”
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In a veto threat issued Thursday, the White House said the bill is “more concerned with delivering on longstanding partisan and ideological wish lists than with enhancing the ability of our Nation to deal with the public health and economic challenges we face.”
The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, or the HEROES Act, would be larger than the four previous economic stimulus packages combined that Congress has approved since March to combat the coronavirus.
Among the measure’s more prominent elements:
- $200 billion for a “Heroes fund” that would provide “hazard pay” to essential employees such as front-line health care workers.
- $75 billion to beef up testing and contact tracing.
- A second round of economic impact payments of $1,200 per family member, up to $6,000 per household.
- $10 billion for emergency grants to small businesses through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.
- COBRA subsidies to workers who have lost their health insurance because they’ve been laid off. It also creates a special enrollment period in the Affordable Care Act exchanges for the uninsured.
- Extension of weekly $600 federal unemployment payments through January.
- $175 billion to help renters and homeowners make monthly rent, mortgage and utility payments and other housing-related cost.
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