Even as the Trump administration and congressional Republicans take a wait-and-see approach to the next phase of coronavirus relief, House Democrats led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi are racing this week to finalize their own proposals for a multitrillion-dollar rescue package.
“We all agree that we must put more money in the pockets of the American people. This is not only necessary for their survival but also is a stimulus to the economy. Direct payments, unemployment insurance, rental and mortgage help and student loan assistance are essential to relieve the fear that many families are facing,” Pelosi wrote in a Mother’s Day letter to colleagues, adding, “Not acting is the most expensive course.”
GOP in ‘no rush’: President Trump said Friday he’s “in no rush” to pass another bill. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said that, while informal talks are happening, formal negotiations are paused and likely will be until early next month. And Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell said Monday that there’s no urgent need for additional legislation.
"We're basically assessing what we've done already. I'm in constant communication with the White House and if we decide to go forward we'll go forward together," McConnell told reporters, according to The Hill. "I don’t think we have yet felt the urgency of acting immediately. That time could develop, but I don’t think it has yet."
McConnell reportedly declined to specify a timeline for the any additional coronavirus package.
What’s in the Democratic package: The Democratic package, dubbed CARES 2, hasn’t been unveiled yet, but a vote could happen as soon as Friday or slip into next week. If or when the bill passes, it likely won’t mean all that much: “Neither this bill nor anything resembling it will ever become law -- it’s a Democratic wish list filled up with all the party’s favored policies,” Politico reports. But it will serve as a political messaging tool — one that House Democrats will use both to show that they’re still working to address the pandemic and to set out their priorities for future negotiations.
Here’s a look at eight key provisions expected in the bill, according to The Hill:
- More aid for state and local governments: Democrats are reportedly looking to provide three separate pots of money for states, counties and municipalities at a total cost approaching $1 trillion.
- More direct payments: Democrats are reportedly coming together behind a plan to give most Americans $2,000 a month for as long as the pandemic lasts.
- More help for workers and businesses: Democrats will call for further expansion of unemployment benefits as well as additional aid for small businesses, either under the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides grants and loans to keep small businesses afloat and employees on the payroll, or a revamped alternative. Democrats are “eyeing a strategy for replacing the PPP with a program that provides federal grants directly to employers, allowing workers to remain employed — and receiving health benefits — without navigating approval through the middleman banks,” The Hill says.
- Rent and mortgage assistance: Reps. Denny Heck of Washington and Maxine Waters of California have proposed a $100 billion program to help people pay their rent and utilities.
- Expanding broadband service to rural and low-income areas: This may be the main piece left from scrapped plans to propose a huge infrastructure spending package.
- Money for coronavirus testing, treatment and contact tracing: “In this critical moment for our country, we must demonstrate a clear strategy of testing, tracing, and treatment,” Pelosi said in her letter.
- The U.S. Postal Service: Democrats are reportedly aiming for at least $25 billion in aid.
- Food programs: Democrats has wanted a 15% increase in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly called food stamps, as part of the first CARES Act. That didn’t happen, but the party will look to ramp up nutritional assistance funding — for SNAP and other programs —in the next bill.