U.S. Democrats push election-year healthcare, housing, infrastructure bills

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives this week showcased three big-ticket, election-year initiatives they say would improve healthcare, protect renters from eviction amid a pandemic and spend $1.5 trillion on infrastructure projects.

The Democratic-controlled House approved the healthcare and housing bills on Monday, despite Republican opposition, signaling they will be blocked by the Republican-controlled Senate. A vote is expected this week on infrastructure.

With congressional elections only four months away, Democrats were highlighting the measures, knowing they are popular among many voters, especially progressive Democrats. They are a growing force in the party that will be important to Democrat Joe Biden's quest to defeat Republican President Donald Trump on Nov. 3.

The healthcare bill, which aims to bolster the controversial Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, would lower medical insurance premiums, expand Medicaid and cut prescription drug costs.

It was being debated as Democrats escalated attacks on the Trump administration for urging the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate Obamacare.

Democratic Representative Raul Ruiz, a physician, urged passage of the Obamacare "enhancement," saying it would "strengthen protections for pre-existing conditions, the same ones that make a person more likely to die from COVID-19," the disease caused by the coronavirus that already has killed more than 125,000 people in the United States.

Republican Representative Kevin Brady countered that legislation aiming to lower drug prices would discourage the development of drugs to treat "devastating" diseases, including COVID-19.

The housing aid bill, which was passed weeks ago by the House as part of a broader coronavirus-response bill Republicans opposed, would extend through next March a renters' eviction moratorium and provide $100 billion to help pay landlords.

The infrastructure legislation would allocate $1.5 trillion for job-creating public works and other projects at a time when some Republicans are expressing new-found concerns over the federal debt.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Dan Grebler and Sonya Hepinstall)