House of Commons Democrats vote $ 3 trillion for coronavirus relief despite Trump veto threat

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This radical legislation, dubbed “Heroes Act”, was adopted in 208-199. Fourteen Democrats defected and opposed the bill, reflecting concerns expressed by both moderates and liberals in the Democratic House caucus regarding the content of the bill and the process led by the leaders who brought him to the floor. The bill won the support of only one Republican: New York’s representative Peter T. King.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) Advanced despite divisions in her caucus and the GOP opposition, arguing that the law will set a marker for Democrats’ priorities and pave the way for negotiations on the next bipartisan relief bill.

Americans “suffer so much, in many ways. We want to alleviate their pain, “said Pelosi during the House debate on Friday. “Failure to act now is not only irresponsible on a humanitarian level, it is irresponsible because it will only cost more, more in terms of lives, livelihoods, costs for the budget, costs for our democracy. “

The 1,800-page legislation contains a large number of provisions: almost $ 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 the risk premium for essential workers; $ 75 billion for coronavirus testing and tracing; increased spending on food stamps; $ 175 billion in housing assistance; student loan forgiveness; and a new tax credit for employee retention and the extension of unemployment benefits.

It also includes measures less directly related to the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis. This would force all voters to vote by mail from November and temporarily repeal a provision of the GOP’s 2017 tax law that limited a federal deduction for national and local taxes, which would greatly help high-income regions. The legislation would provide the U.S. postal service with $ 25 billion, spending President Trump vehemently as he pressured the agency to charge higher rates to Amazon and others.

“The bill is simply a disguised democratic program in response to the coronavirus pandemic,” said representative Tom Cole (R-Okla.). “The bill will go nowhere and will not go quickly. … Why we engage in this exercise rather than negotiating in a bipartisan manner is beyond me. ”

The White House issued a formal veto threat against the legislation earlier this week.

As Washington struggled to cope with the growing impact of the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year, the White House, state governments, local officials and businesses took action to send many Americans home in an attempt to contain the contagion. This has led to a massive wave of layoffs that started more than two months ago and has continued weekly since then, especially as the Americans have cut spending sharply.

Congress passed four bipartisan coronavirus rescue bills that have already cost about $ 3 trillion to try to mitigate economic spinoffs. While Republicans and Trump administration officials agree that more action will be needed at some point, many say it’s time to take a break and see how well-funded programs are working before spending more of federal funds to the crisis in the form of a deficit balloon.

“The president has said he will talk about state and local aid, but that cannot become an excuse to bail out blue states that have gotten into financial trouble, so even if he is open to discuss it , he has no immediate plans to move forward, “White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Friday, adding,” The Pelosi bill is completely unacceptable. “

Due to conflicting priorities that could make it difficult to reach agreement on additional relief legislation, White House National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow on Friday proposed to cut the rate by half. Corporate taxation of 21% for companies returning to the United States from overseas, a drastic change that sparked immediate opposition from Democrats.

The White House also called for a reduction in payroll taxes and new protections for corporate legal liability in any future legislation, policies that have already been rejected by Democrats and – in the case of reduced payroll taxes – some Republicans too.

Trump himself has been pushing for the economy to reopen as quickly as possible and recently said he was “in no rush” to sign additional spending.

This argument angered Democrats who said that Republicans are turning a blind eye to the tens of millions of Americans who have lost their jobs. They also underscore comments by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome H. Powell, who warned this week of a prolonged economic downturn and said the additional spending would be “expensive but worth it.”

On Friday, the debate took place in what has become the new standard for the House: the room was largely empty, except for the members who spoke or chaired and certain staff members. Most legislators from both parties wore masks, although a handful of Republicans were not, and about two dozen legislators were absent. When the time came to vote, lawmakers rode in and out of the room in small groups assembled in alphabetical order, so a vote that would normally take 15 minutes to stretch to well over an hour. . The room was cleaned and wiped several times.

As the pandemic unfolds without end in sight, the House also voted on Friday to approve a rule change allowing remote voting by proxy, so that future votes can take place without the presence of all members. Republicans objected to the rule change, calling it unconstitutional, while Democrats said it was necessary for the House to continue operating safely.

Pelosi responded to competing demands in its own caucus as it assembled Friday’s coronavirus bill. Legislators, including members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, had lobbied for a “Pay Check Guarantee” program that would offer more generous assistance to individuals than the new series of one-time payments included in the bill. Progressive Caucus co-chair Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) Was among those who opposed the law on Friday, saying that it “ultimately does not reach the scale of this crisis.”

Some moderate legislators, including freshmen who overturned GOP seats and who face challenges in November, have expressed unease at forcing the adoption of what they considered to be a partisan bill. And lawmakers on both sides complained about a process that presented them with a gigantic piece of legislation written largely at the executive level and little time to review it.

“Unfortunately, many members of Congress – including some from my own party – have decided to use this package as an opportunity to make political statements and to introduce a bill that goes far beyond the relief of the pandemic and has no chance of becoming law, further delaying aid. so many people need it, “said Representative Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) in a statement on Friday announcing her opposition to the bill.

But as they head for the November elections, the vast majority of Democrats have rallied behind the bill, approving an activist role for the federal government to help the country emerge from the economic crater brought on by the pandemic.

“This is the legislation that the American people expect from their representatives during this crisis,” said majority chief Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.). “It is a bold response to an unprecedented challenge.”

Just before the bill’s final adoption, Democratic leaders vied for votes to overcome a last-minute obstacle: a Republicans’ attempt to attach an amendment that would have struck the wording of the bill extending a series of stimulus checks earlier to unauthorized immigrants. If passed, the amendment would have jeopardized the passage of the underlying bill due to opposition from Liberal and Hispanic lawmakers.

Mike DeBonis contributed to this report.

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