House passes Democratic relief bill

U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi participates in a TV interview on Capitol Hill

U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi participates in a TV interview on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. September 29, 2020.

Erin Scott | Reuters

The House passed a $2.2 trillion Democratic coronavirus stimulus plan on Thursday night even as Democrats and the Trump administration struggle to strike a relief deal. 

The chamber approved the legislation in a 214-207 vote. Eighteen Democrats voted against the measure as lawmakers in competitive districts grow wary of the ongoing impasse over aid.

The bill likely will not get through the Republican-held Senate and become law. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has opposed the legislation as his caucus resists spending trillions more on the federal response to the pandemic. 

The vote followed a Thursday conversation between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in which they did not forge an aid agreement but agreed to continue talks. They failed to bridge a gulf on a range of issues, including how much aid to send state and local governments and whether to establish a liability shield for businesses and schools. 

Earlier in the day, Pelosi downplayed the possibility that talks with Mnuchin this week offered the last, best chance to approve more relief before the Nov. 3 election. But it is unclear now what could make either side budge, as Democrats call for a sweeping package to boost the economy and health-care system and the GOP worries about injecting too much money into the response.

Congress has failed to pass new rescue funds for months as the country reports tens of thousands of new Covid-19 cases per day and massive corporations plan new layoffs and furloughs. The $600 per week supplemental unemployment benefit, federal moratorium on evictions and window to apply for Paycheck Protection Program loans set up to provide relief during the outbreak all expired weeks ago.

The Democratic bill would:

  • 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

Mnuchin countered the Democrats’ plan Wednesday with a $1.6 trillion proposal, NBC News reported. It includes $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, and $60 billion for rental and mortgage assistance, according to NBC. 

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