House Passes $2.2 Trillion Coronavirus Relief Package
Amid the bombardbent of surprises on Thursday, the first day of October, there did emerge some potential good news. The House of Representatives passed an updated version of the HEROES Act – aimed at boosting the economy as the COVID-19 crisis worsens – albeit without a single Republican vote.
More than 207,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus since March, and reported cases have surged past seven million – by far the highest totals in the world.
GOP support is not required for legislation to move through Congress’ lower chamber because the Democrats hold a substantial majority. The obstacle a new stimulus bill faces is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and his Republican caucus, which has balked at funnelling more cash into the pockets of struggling Americans.
But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the lead negotiators for the House and Trump Administration respectively, are actually closer to a deal than at any other point since the $600 per week Pandemic Unemployment Assistance payments lapsed at the end of July.
The updated HEROES Act that cruised through the House on Thursday contains the following provisions, per CNBC:
Reinstate the $600 per week enhanced unemployment benefit through January
Send a second $1,200 direct payment to most Americans
Give $436 billion in relief over one year to state and local governments
Authorize more money for a second round of Paycheck Protection Program loans for the hardest-hit businesses and industries
Send $25 billion to airlines to cover payroll costs
Inject $75 billion into Covid-19 testing and contact tracing efforts
Put $225 billion into education and $57 billion into child care
Set aside billions for rental and mortgage assistance
Remarkably, Mnuchin’s counter-offer was only $600 billion lower, coming in at $1.6 trillion, shared many of the items passed by the House. The primary disagreements stem from how much money each program would receive, NBC reported:
$250 billion for state and local government relief
$400 per week in extra unemployment benefits
$150 billion for education
$75 billion for Covid-19 testing and contact tracing
$60 billion for rental and mortgage assistance
With the election a mere 32 days away, the GOP is in real danger of losing its Senate majority, especially if their apathy toward people whose jobs – many of which are gone forever, like in New York City’s descimated restaurant industry – is permitted to dominate the chamber’s agenda.
The GOP’s push to confirm Appellate Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett, which could occur by mid-month, may be politically untenable in the short-term too, considering the weight of what the country learned on Thursday.
The news of President Donald Trump’s positive coronavirus diagnosis, forcing him to quarantine for the next couple weeks, may motivate the administration and Senate Republicans to strike a deal with Democrats before the election.
On Friday, Pelosi expressed cautious optimism over the prospect of making a deal with the other side.
“This kind of changes the dynamic because here [Republicans] see the reality of what we have been saying all along. This is a vicious virus,” the Speaker told MSNBC. “We always have to find a path, that is our responsibility to do so, and I believe that we will,” she aded. “We’ll find our middle ground. We’re legislators. We’ll get the job done.”
The White House also hinted that getting a new stimulus bill passed is something Trump wants to accomplish as quickly as possible. Friday’s lackluster jobs report – the last one before the November 3 election – further emphasized the need for allocatting additional stimulus money.
”[Trump’s] first question to me this morning was, ‘How’s the economy doing? How are the stimulus talks going on Capitol Hill?’” White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told reporters.
Leaving Americans out to dry would be political suicide for Republicans. The GOP’s house of cards is crumbling, and they know it.