House Set to Pass $3 Trillion Coronavirus Relief Bill Destined to Die in the Senate
The Democratic-led House is set to pass a $3 trillion emergency coronavirus relief bill that is destined to be ignored by the Republican-controlled Senate.
The package, which would be the largest emergency spending package in U.S. history, provides nearly $1 trillion in additional aid to state and local governments as well as another round of direct payments to individuals, a further extension of enhanced unemployment benefits, hazard pay for frontline workers and funding for increased coronavirus testing. But the 1,800-page legislation, titled the HEROES Act, also includes a number of other Democratic priorities, such as allowing voting by mail this November and a temporary repeal of the cap on state and local tax deductions.
Senate Republicans have dismissed the legislation as a “left-wing wish list” and said the bill would be dead on arrival in their chamber. President Trump has also pledged to veto the legislation should it get to his desk.
Some Democratic defections: The bill appears certain to pass despite some objections from both progressives, who say the legislation doesn’t go far enough, and moderate Democrats, who worry about backing a partisan bill that stands no chance of becoming law.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, a leader of the progressive caucus, had pushed for a $600 billion “Paycheck Guarantee” program that would have providing federal funding to cover business payrolls, but Democratic leadership rejected the plan as too costly and complicated. Jayapal announced Friday she would oppose the HEROES Act, saying that in her view, it “ultimately fails to match the scale of this crisis.”
Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a moderate Democrat from Virginia, also came out against the bill. “Unfortunately, many Members of Congress — including some in my own party — have decided to use this package as an opportunity to make political statements and propose a bill that goes far beyond pandemic relief and has no chance at becoming law, further delaying the help so many need. Therefore, I will respectfully vote against this bill,” she said in a statement.
An opening offer: Despite those internal divisions and Republican opposition, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed ahead with the package in order to lay down a marker for bipartisan talks. “We’re putting our offer on the table. We’re open to negotiation,” she told reporters on Thursday. No formal negotiations are happening, though, as Republicans and the White House say they want to assess how the trillions of dollars previously provided are working.
The bottom line: Any bipartisan progress on the next round of coronavirus relief is likely still a long way away. Larry Kudlow, director of President Trump’s National Economic Council, on Friday dismissed the idea of another large spending package, and the White House is still pushing for new tax cuts (see more on that below).
“The point here is another $3 trillion package just seems off target to me,” Kudlow said Friday. “I don’t believe we can spend ourselves into prosperity over time, and instead I believe that President Trump’s original policies, which reduced taxes and regulations, are exactly the tonic that we should pursue going forward in a new round of negotiations.”
Those ideas are unlikely to find much support among House Democrats.