Democrats’ $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill passes House
WASHINGTON — House Democrats on Friday passed a $3 trillion tax cut and spending bill aimed at addressing the devastating economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak by directing huge sums of money into all corners of the economy.
But the White House and Senate Republicans have decried the measure’s design and said they will cast it aside, leaving uncertain what steps policymakers might take as the economy continues to face severe strains.
The sweeping legislation, dubbed the “Heroes Act, passed 208-199. Fourteen Democrats defected and opposed the bill, reflecting concerns voiced both by moderates and liberals in the House Democratic caucus about the bill’s content and the leadership-driven process that brought it to the floor. The bill won support from just one Republican: Rep. Pete King of New York.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, pushed forward despite the divisions in her caucus and GOP opposition, arguing that the legislation will put down a marker for Democrats’ priorities and set the stage for negotiations on the next bipartisan relief bill.
Americans “are suffering so much, in so many ways. We want to lessen their pain,” Pelosi said during House floor debate Friday. “Not to act now is not only irresponsible in a humanitarian way, it is irresponsible because it’s only going to cost more, more in terms of lives, livelihood, cost to the budget, cost to our democracy.”
The 1,800-page legislation contains a large number of provisions: nearly $1 trillion for state, local and tribal governments; another round of direct payments to individuals, up to $6,000 per family, including to unauthorized immigrants; $200 billion for hazard pay for essential workers; $75 billion for coronavirus testing and tracing; increased spending on food stamps; $175 billion in housing support; student loan forgiveness; and a new employee retention tax credit and extension of unemployment benefits.
It also includes measures less directly related to the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis. It would require all voters to be able to vote by mail beginning this November and temporarily repeal a provision from the 2017 GOP tax law that limited a federal deduction for state and local taxes, something that would largely help higher-income areas. The legislation would provide $25 billion for the U.S. Postal Service, spending President Donald Trump has vociferously opposed as he has pressured the agency to charge higher rates to Amazon and others.
North Bay Reps. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, and Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, both supported the bill.
“The American people need immediate help, and I want them to know we hear them and are going to fight for their needs,” Huffman said in a statement after the vote. “This bill doesn’t include everything I want to see, but it is about keeping the lights on in state and local governments and hospitals — giving lifeline support for folks that desperately need it.”
A statement from Thompson highlighted what the act would do to benefit his district, including increasing “funding for state and local governments to provide nutritious meals to vulnerable populations by partnering with restaurants and small family farmers.”
“The Heroes Act is a massive investment of funding from the Federal government, one that I do not take lightly,” Thompson said. “But it is just that, an investment. It helps ensure our families can feed their children, our small businesses will be there when we can safely visit them again, and our economy can once again thrive.”