House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Thursday that their “starting point” for negotiating a new economic stimulus package to offset the losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is the $3.4 trillion Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, which was passed by the House of Representatives back in May.
“The HEROES Act should be the starting point, not an emaciated bill that prioritizes protections for corporations and considers the needs of American families as an afterthought,” Schumer, flanked by Pelosi, said at a press conference. “The HEROES Act, passed in the House, does meet this moment. It doesn’t pick and choose who we’re going to help during the greatest health and economic crisis in decades.”
Pelosi said that the priority for Democrats is crushing the coronavirus and ensuring that the American people have the economic means to weather the dark winter ahead.
“It has been our position all along to crush the virus, honor our heroes, put money in the pockets of the American people,” the Speaker said.
She added that President-Elect Joe Biden’s election victory gives Democrats a mandate to go big.
“What Joe Biden got in this election was a mandate, a mandate to address the challenges that our country faces as well as to have a positive initiative on how to grow the economy in a fair way and in order to do that we must address the pandemic,” Pelosi said.
Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R-KY), however, opposes a multi-trillion dollar bill, having for months claimed it was unnecessarily excessive. He repeated his position on Thursday.
“My view is the level at which the economy is improving further underscores that we need to do something about the amount that we put on the floor in September and October — highly targeted at what the residual problems are,” McConnell said.
But the recent surge in COVID-19 infections, which shows no signs of abating, has Democrats posturing that they have the upper hand.
Schumer said that it is now “even more important and vital” to include the “health care provisions” within the HEROES Act in whatever final legislation gets drafted. He knocked McConnell for “sticking to his emaciated bill,” which he described as a “non-starter.”
The prospect of an immenent coronavirus vaccine underscores the “greater need for a bill because it has to be distributed fairly and equitably,” Schumer continued.
“The biggest change since Election Day is that Donald Trump, who is not for helping us in COVID and who is against the HEROES bill, has lost,” Schumer said. “So yes, we think there has been a change. It should move things in our direction.”
The election, Schumer declared, was “more a referendum on who can handle COVID well than anything else. The Donald Trump approach was repudiated, the Joe Biden approach was embraced.”
Democrats, McConnell lamented, “are looking at something dramatically larger” than the GOP.
“That’s not a place I think we’re willing to go. But I do think there needs to be another package. Hopefully we can get past the impasse we’ve had now for four or five months and get serious about doing something that’s appropriate,” McConnell said.
But McConnell and Senate Republicans are the ones who have been obstructing a third coronavirus relief package, even after the White House and Pelosi had come within striking distance of an agreement last month.
Whether or not a bill with a pricetag in the trillions will make it through the Senate before the new Congress takes office – should an agreement not be reached in the coming weeks – may hinge on which party ends up controlling the upper chamber, and that will not be determined until January.
Two Senate races in the state of Georgia are headed for runoff elections. Both seats are held by Republicans. If the Democratic candidates win both of them, their party will hold 50 seats in the Senate, and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris would cast any tie-breaking votes, effectively giving Democrats a one-seat majority.
Another unknown is if Trump, now a lame-duck president, is even willing to sign anything, given the bitterness he has expressed over his election loss.
But the biggest question by far is how much longer the American people can continue to make ends meet without additional federal financial assistance.
Sixty-nine days until the election.
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Brandon is a political writer for the Hill Reporter specializing in current events, breaking news, and scientific discovery. Brandon holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Indiana University. He lives in New York City.