House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she has been encouraged to “think big” for the next coronavirus relief package, and it looks like she has taken that advice to heart. House Democrats on Tuesday released the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act – or HEROES Act – and it comes with a very big price tag: $3 trillion.
If passed, the bill would become the largest piece of legislation in U.S. history.
The bill – all 1,815 pages of it – may pass the House when it comes up for an expected vote on Friday, but there’s little chance it will become law any time soon. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who says Republicans want to “take a pause” on further efforts to provide relief in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, gave the new bill a cool reception, describing it as a little more than a “big laundry list of pet priorities.” A spokesman for Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said the legislation is "DOA in the Senate.”
Pelosi defended the bill and its unprecedented cost. “We must think big for the people now because, if we don’t, it will cost more in lives and livelihoods later,” she said. “Not acting is the most expensive course. We face the biggest catastrophe in our nation’s history.” She noted that low interest rates, which have helped Wall Street rebound, can be taken advantage of to fund the proposed programs, which aim to help ordinary Americans.
Some highlights from the bill:
- A second round of $1,200 stimulus checks for both adults and children, with a $6,000 limit per household
- The $600 per week supplement for unemployment benefits extended through January
- $540 billion for state governments, including Washington D.C. and tribal territories
- $375 billion for local governments
- $200 billion to provide hazard pay to essential employees, including health care workers
- $175 billion to help renters and homeowners cover housing costs
- $75 billion for testing and tracing efforts
- $25 billion for the U.S. Postal Service
- $10 billion for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program that provides grants to small businesses
- $3.6 billion to beef up federal election infrastructure
- Two-year rollback of the $10,000 limit on state and local tax (SALT) deductions.
Disappointment on the left: Leaders of the progressive wing of the Democratic party charged that the bill doesn’t go far enough to help Americans struggling with an economic crisis. For example, Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Mark Pocan (D-WI) had pushed for a “Paycheck Guarantee” program to be included in the bill, but it was reportedly left out by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) on the grounds that it would be too complicated and expensive, with a cost of $600 billion over six months.
Still, progressives are expected to support the legislation, heeding Pelosi’s recent assertion that “we can't do everything in this bill.”
Skepticism on the right: Republicans reiterated their view that it’s time to stop and see how the current relief efforts are having an effect. "I don't think there’s any sense of urgency until we see how some of these programs that are already authorized and funded are working, and it seems like, at least right now, they’re working pretty well," Sen. John Thune (R-SD) said Tuesday.
What comes next: The bill is best seen as an opening offer from Democrats, who are hoping to pass another massive round of coronavirus relief spending. Negotiations with reluctant Republicans could stretch on for weeks, though, and there’s good reason to think that the final relief package will end up looking quite different than the HEROES Act introduced Tuesday.