CORONAVIRUS

House Passes $3 Trillion Coronavirus Relief Bill

The Senate isn't expected to take it up, but it puts pressure on Republicans to do something.

The House narrowly approved a $3 trillion package on Friday, barely advancing a sweeping coronavirus relief package mostly along party lines. 

Lawmakers voted 208-199, with 207 Democrats and one Republicans voting yes, and 14 Democrats and 184 Republicans voting no.

The massive bill ― more than 1,800 pages ― is the fifth coronavirus-related measure the House has passed, but this one is the most expensive. There’s little chance of this exact legislation becoming law.

“Some people say this bill won’t pass in this fashion,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on the floor Friday. “I think that’s probably right. But we have set forth proposals, and it is time, and hopefully, we will do it quickly, negotiate our differences, and pass legislation.”

Unlike previous bills, this one wasn’t negotiated with Republicans prior to the vote. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has already said he sees no “urgency” to take up the legislation. The White House has also expressed some opposition to the bill, though the administration seems to have less of a problem than House Republicans with one of the primary aspects of the bill: state and local government funding.

The bill would provide $1 trillion for struggling state and local governments, as well as $200 billion for hazard pay (an extra $13 an hour) for some essential workers, and more than $300 billion for another round of direct payments. In March, Congress approved $1,200 payments to individuals making less than $75,000, with a prorated amount for people making less than $99,000, plus an extra $500 per dependent child.

This time, House Democrats approved legislation that would give parents $1,200 per dependent child ― with families eligible to receive up to $6,000.

Those provisions are popular with most Americans ― three-quarters of voters in battleground states recently said they supported more government assistance ― and it will be difficult for Republicans to significantly peel back those benefits in the next bill.

But there are a number of provisions that are more difficult to defend.

For one, Democrats repeal a tax cut that would greatly benefit the rich: a write-off on state and local property taxes over $10,000. The Tax Policy Center estimates that the richest 1% of households would receive 56% of the benefit of that change, and the top 5% would get 80%.

Democrats also made a change to the Paycheck Protection Program ― a small business loan program Congress established in previous coronavirus legislation ― that would allow lobbying firms to apply for those loans.

Republicans generally avoided those criticisms Friday, however, instead focusing on calling the bill, in the words of Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Va.), “a wish list that has no chance of becoming law.”

“This 1,800-page, $3 trillion proposal isn’t a serious attempt at making public policy,” said Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

“We don’t view the coronavirus as an opportunity to reshape and restructure government,” McCarthy said. “We do not smile and cheer when people lose their jobs. And we do not think to use leverage because people are suffering.”

Democrats are hardly smiling and cheering at job losses. In fact, their bill extends an additional  $600 a week in unemployment benefits until the end of the year, whereas Republicans want those additional benefits to expire in July. But the sheer size and cost of the sweeping legislation lost the votes of some moderate Democrats.

The bill includes ambitious paid family leave policies, $175 billion for housing assistance to help people pay rents and mortgages, $25 billion for the Postal Service, and a 15% increase for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which provides food stamps.

But progressives also had problems with the bill, costing Democratic leadership votes from some liberals and nearly sinking it.

During a procedural vote to put the measure on the floor, nearly all of the 14 “no” votes from Democrats came from liberals, and roughly half of the Democratic opposition to the final bill came from those same progressives after a number of their priorities were left out of legislation that largely passed entirely on the backs of Democrats.

Ultimately, progressives took a pass on really trying to hold up the final coronavirus relief legislation. But they expect to have a voice on the next round of negotiations as Democratic leaders pressure Senate Republicans and the White House to get behind at least some portions of the House-passed legislation.

McConnell has been steadfast that this bill would not pass the Senate, and will not get a vote. Some Senate Republicans, however, are already showing signs of angst over McConnell’s stonewalling approach, and President Donald Trump has shifted from saying he was in “no rush” for another bill to saying it’s “going to happen.”

“It’s going to happen in a much better way for the American people,” Trump said.


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