House Democrats introduce $2.2 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, unlikely to pass in Senate

WASHINGTON – House Democrats unveiled a $2.2 trillion COVID-19 relief bill in a long-shot push to break the impasse on negotiations before the election, though the bill is likely to face opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate if it passes the House.

Many of the benefits approved by Congress ran out this year, leaving millions of Americans waiting for urgently needed aid. The $600 federal unemployment benefit ran out in July, a loan forgiveness program for small businesses expired, and airlines warned of mass layoffs.

The bill, an updated version of legislation passed by House Democrats, would provide a round of $1,200 relief checks, reauthorize the small-business lending program, bring back the $600 federal boost to the unemployment benefit through January and provide assistance for the airline industry.

The bill includes:

  • $225 billion in education funding, with $182 billion for K-12 schools and about $39 billion for post-secondary education

  • $120 billion in grants for restaurants

  • $436 billion in assistance for state, local and tribal governments

  • $75 billion for COVID-19 testing, tracing and isolation measures

  • $15 billion in funding for the U.S. Postal Service

  • Increased food assistance benefits

"Democrats are making good on our promise to compromise with this updated bill, which is necessary to address the immediate health and economic crisis facing America's working families right now," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote in a letter to Democrats as the bill was unveiled.

Moderate Democrats, many of whom face tough reelection contests, pushed congressional Democratic leaders for weeks to act on a pared-down COVID-19 relief bill before they leave for their scheduled recess before the election.

The House could act on the bill as soon as this week. Although the Senate is unlikely to act on the legislation, it represents a negotiating point more than $1 trillion lower than Democrats' previous proposal.

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House Democrats passed a $3.4 trillion relief plan in May, but Senate Republicans declined to take action on the legislation. Since then, Pelosi and Democrats said they would reduce the price of their package by $1 trillion, though Republicans declined the offer. Senate Democrats blocked Senate Republicans' smaller, $300 billion package in early September, leaving both sides at an impasse in negotiations.

Democrats and Republicans have been unable to agree on a number of issues, including the amount of the unemployment benefit, which Republicans said would disincentivize work if it is too generous. Democrats offered $600 in their proposals, whereas Republicans offered $200 and $300 in other proposals.

Democrats advocated for funding for state and local governments, proposing nearly $1 trillion in previous proposals, whereas Republicans argued the money would bail out mismanaged governments and add to the federal deficit.

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Pelosi said Monday on MSNBC she thought congressional Democrats and the White House "can find our common ground," though Democrats still wanted White House negotiators to accept a higher price tag on the bill. Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, one of the lead White House negotiators, resumed negotiations, but they have not yet reached a deal.

Pelosi and Mnuchin spoke together by phone Monday evening after Democrats unveiled their bill, according to Pelosi's deputy chief of staff, Drew Hammill, and agreed to speak again Tuesday morning.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID-19: Democrats intro $2.2 trillion bill with more stimulus checks