House passes $3 trillion relief package

U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks at her weekly press conference.

Michael Brochstein | Barcroft Media | Getty Images

House Democrats on Friday passed a $3 trillion coronavirus relief package, unprecedented spending Senate Republicans have pledged to block as the major parties struggle to find a path forward on the pandemic response.

The chamber also approved voting by proxy and remote committee work. The rules changes, major moves for a tradition-bound institution, aim to make it easier for representatives to conduct business from outside of Washington during the crisis. 

The House passed the rescue legislation in a close 208-199 vote, as Democrats saw defections from both the left and right flanks of the party. Fourteen Democrats voted against the bill and one Republican supported it. 

The bill includes:

  • Nearly $1 trillion for cash-strapped state and local governments
  • $200 billion for hazard pay for essential workers
  • $75 billion for Covid-19 testing efforts
  • An extension of the $600 per week federal unemployment insurance benefit through January (it is currently set to go through July)
  • $175 billion in rent, mortgage and utility assistance
  • A 15% increase in the maximum Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefit 
  • Repeal of the $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions for two years, which would help certain states’ budget crunch but benefit higher-income taxpayers most
  • Expanded mail-in ballot access, which Republicans oppose
  • Relief funds for the U.S. Postal Service 
  • $10 billion in emergency small business disaster assistance grants
  • Subsidies and a special Affordable Care Act enrollment period for people who lose employer-sponsored health coverage

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made it clear he has no interest in taking up the proposal. On Thursday, he said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “published an 1,800-page seasonal catalog of left-wing oddities and called it a coronavirus relief bill.” The White House threatened to veto the legislation before the House voted. 

Pelosi, a California Democrat, has characterized her party’s bill as an opening offer in what she hopes will become negotiations with Republicans on another round of fiscal relief. On Friday, she criticized Republicans who said they want to wait to pass more aid. 

“Do you think this virus is taking a pause?” she asked. “Do you think that the rent takes a pause?  Do you think that putting food on the table or the hunger that comes if you can’t takes a pause?”

While the president opposed the Democratic plan, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany indicated this week that he would back another relief bill. 

Two administration officials told CNBC that the White House would likely support another round of direct payments — a popular piece of the unprecedented emergency spending law passed in March.

McConnell has called for liability protections for doctors and businesses as part of any future legislation the Senate passes. Democrats have generally criticized such a provision. 

After Democrats passed the bill Friday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s office told members not to expect votes next week. The House is set to be in session on May 27 and 28. 

The pandemic continues to ravage the country. The U.S. now has more than 1.4 million cases, and the disease has killed more than 86,000 Americans, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

More than 36 million people have filed jobless claims since the crisis started.

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