As House Democrats try to pass a new $3 trillion coronavirus relief package later on Friday, the bill faces opposition from Republicans and moderate Democrats who take issue with its cost; meanwhile, progressives argue that the legislation doesn’t go far enough.
Democrats, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), unveiled the HEROES Act (the largest emergency spending bill in U.S. history) on Tuesday, and expect to vote on the measure Friday night.
It’s unlikely the bill will make it out of the House in its current form as opposition mounts from moderate Democrats who say it goes too far, and progressives who say it doesn’t do enough to help struggling Americans.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) were quick to object to the bill because it doesn’t include more federal funding to cover small business payrolls.
“I unfortunately will be voting ‘No’ on the bill,” Rep. Jayapal told reporters on Friday, explaining that it didn’t do enough to protect struggling workers. “We’re going to see mass unemployment numbers continue to rise.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), another prominent progressive member of the House, called the bill a “mixed bag,” saying that she thinks it should go further, “especially when it comes to healthcare.”
Some moderate Democrats are opposing the bill because it goes too far: Rep. Kendra Horn (D-Okla.) said it wasn’t bipartisan, while Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) tweeted on Friday that she will also vote against the package because it “strays far beyond delivering relief or responding to an urgent crisis, & it has no chance at becoming law.”
House Republicans, for their part, have argued that the bill is far too large: Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), said on Friday that it was a “dark day for our country,” while Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) called the $3 trillion relief package “massive and unwarranted.”
What we don’t know
How many Republicans in the House might cross party lines. At least one, retiring Congressman Peter King of New York, plans to do so. He told Fox News that he plans to vote for the bill, because his state, which was the hardest-hit by the pandemic, will “absolutely collapse” without aid from the federal government. “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.”
What to watch for
There are 233 Democrats serving in the 430-member House. That means that Democrats can lose no more than 17 votes in order for the legislation to pass along party lines.
Both the White House and Senate Republicans have said they will immediately cast the bill aside, calling it “dead on arrival” if it passes a House vote on Friday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., dismissed it as a “liberal wish list” and called it “an unserious product from an unserious majority.” The Trump administration has similarly issued a threat, with the White House saying that it would veto the bill.
The 1,800-page HEROES Act is a laundry list of Democratic priorities, starting with nearly $1 trillion in direct aid to state and local governments dealing with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. It would also include another round of $1,200 stimulus checks for eligible Americans (those making less than $75,000 per year). The HEROES Act provides $75 billion in mortgage relief, $100 billion for rental assistance, and $75 billion for coronavirus testing. In addition to expanding unemployment insurance, it would also forgive some student loan debt and provide more pay to essential workers.
But Republicans have criticized the bill because it includes many provisions seemingly unrelated to the current economic crisis. Some of these include: $71 million for the Fish and Wildlife Service, $200 million for crisis response in federal prisons, $10 million for the National Endowment for the Arts and $10 million for the National Endowment for the Humanities. It would also repeal the SALT cap (the limit on state and local tax deductions), which Democrats have said is a way to boost Americans’ disposable income. The HEROES Act also proposes to allow cannabis companies to more easily access traditional banking and insurance services, by preventing federally regulated financial institutions from being penalized for working with them. McConnell criticized this aspect in particular, saying that “the word ‘cannabis’ appears in this bill 68 times… More times than the word ‘job’ and four times as many as the word ‘hire.’”
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