House Democrats passed a $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill on Friday despite trepidation from some moderate and progressive Democratic lawmakers about the effectiveness of the package.
The massive relief package, dubbed the HEROES Act, passed the lower chamber in a 208 to 199 vote Friday evening. Fourteen Democrats bucked party leadership to vote against the bill, and only one Republican voted yes.
Many members were allowed to vote remotely due to safety concerns about the spread of the virus. The House approved remote voting in a temporary change to House rules that Republicans opposed as detrimental to the transparency of the voting process.
The relief bill, which follows four other coronavirus packages passed by Congress, includes $1 trillion for state and local governments to blunt the devastating economic effects of the pandemic, a second round of direct payments of $1,200 each for Americans, $75 billion for coronavirus testing and contact tracing, $200 billion in hazard pay for essential workers, and funding to extend the federal government’s expanded unemployment benefits until January. The bill also provides more food assistance funding, $175 billion in rent and mortgage relief as well as support for election safety, Obamacare, the U.S. Postal Service, and more relief for small businesses.
“Not acting is the most expensive course” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said earlier this week.
“If you vote against this and all this funding for your state, then you have to go home and defend it. And if you can defend that no vote, then you’re a better politician than me,” Pelosi warned members of her party Thursday evening about opposing the more than 1,800-page bill.
Republicans swiftly condemned the bill when it was introduced, arguing that it includes a Democratic wish list unrelated to the legitimate measures aimed at combating the coronavirus.
GOP Representative Steve Scalise and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy both slammed the package as rife with “liberal wish list” items.
Meanwhile, several House Democrats also expressed discomfort that the bill includes provisions that appear unrelated to the coronavirus, such as a requirement that federal banking regulators deliver regular reports on “the availability of access to financial services for minority-owned and women-owned cannabis-related legitimate businesses.”
Representative Joe Cunningham, a South Carolina Democrat, said he would not vote for the bill, calling it “Washington politics at its worst.” Representative Abigail Spanberger, a Virginia Democrat, similarly said she opposes the bill and accused her party of using the package to make political statements.
“What I wanted to see in this package is sticking to the very specific emergency need that the country has,” said Representative Elissa Slotkin, a Democrat from Michigan, adding that she was not sure yet whether the positives outweigh the negatives in the bill. All three Democratic critics represent typically Republican districts.
“There are some things that I don’t feel like had to be in the bill,” Slotkin said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said this week that he would negotiate with Democrats if Republicans come to an agreement with the Trump administration on pursuing a next phase of relief.
“What you’ve seen in the House is not something designed to deal with reality, but designed to deal with aspirations,” McConnell said of the House bill, which the Senate GOP has indicated is dead on arrival in the Senate.
As of Friday afternoon, the U.S. has seen more than 1.4 million cases of the coronavirus, and more than 86,000 people have died after being infected. More than 36 million people across the country have filed for unemployment benefits over the last few weeks as businesses have been forced to shutter and lay off workers while states remain under stay at home orders.