US: House Democrats pass $3T coronavirus relief bill
House Democrats passed a $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill on Friday night despite Senate Republicans and President Trump declaring the so-called Heroes Act dead on arrival.
Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California complained that the 1,800-page bill was “the largest bill in the history of Congress” — and that it was unfurled this week without a committee hearing.
Democrats defended the bill, arguing that Republican foot-dragging forced them to move ahead with a unilateral proposal.
“There is pain. There is suffering. There is death throughout the land. Congress must act to provide relief to the American people,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.
The bill passed with 14 left-wing and centrist Democrats voting “no” and a single Republican — Rep. Peter King of New York — voting in favor.
Before passing the bill, Democrats authorized proxy voting for future legislation and defeated a GOP push to ban illegal immigrants from getting stimulus checks.
Congress previously passed four major coronavirus relief packages after laborious late-night negotiations between Democrats and White House representatives.
After passing the fourth major package last month, Republicans had said they wanted to pause for reflection and criticized proposed state bailouts.
The new relief bill includes almost $1 trillion in funding for state and local governments, which Republicans including Trump are wary of granting.
It would authorize another round of stimulus checks up to $1,200, create a $200 billion “heroes fund” giving hazard pay to medical workers, allocate $175 billion to rent and mortgage aid and spend $75 billion on virus testing and contact tracing.
The bill also would extend the $600-per-week federal boost in unemployment insurance payments through January 2021. The boost currently runs through July.
Additional items include a boost in food stamps payments expected to cost $10 billion, a $25 billion bailout for the Postal Service, $3.6 billion for state elections offices and $5.5 billion for expanding high-speed internet to libraries and homes.
The bill also proposes new funds for the Census and health insurance programs.
The bill would give relief to wealthy residents of high-tax states like New York by waiving the $10,000 cap on the federal State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction for 2020 and 2021.
Republican opposed provisions they said steer funds toward abortions and away from deporting illegal immigrants.
In a reflection of the wide-ranging priorities included in the package, the bill would authorize banks to work with state-legal cannabis businesses.
“This really is an exercise in legislative futility,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who managed House floor debate for Republicans. “It would make more to sense in my view, Madam Speaker, to send it straight to Santa Claus.”
Although Democratic leaders are pushing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to allow a vote, even some Democrats acknowledge the bill is a starting point for negotiations.
“Every one of [the coronavirus bills] has started out with a proposal that then has been negotiated to reach bipartisan support,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told The Post.
McConnell on Friday vowed the House bill was going nowhere.
The Heroes Act “reads like the speaker of the House pasted together random ideas from her most liberal members and slapped the word ‘coronavirus’ on top of it,” McConnell said.