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House Democrats Roll Out $3 Trillion Coronavirus Relief Package

May 12, 2020 by Dan McCue
House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) speaks during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol Aug. 13, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Win McNamee/Getty Images/TNS)

WASHINGTON – House Democrats rolled out their latest package of legislation intended to provide economic relief during the coronavirus pandemic while focusing on areas that were either missed or in need of revision in other aid packages.

In a briefing with reporters Tuesday morning, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the bill, which currently stands at some 1,815 pages, will be voted on Friday.

The $3 trillion package is expected to pass along party lines as Democrats seek to pressure Senate Republicans to start negotiations on a final relief bill.

Also headed for a vote Friday is a change to the House rules that will likely allow proxy voting in certain circumstances and give committees full authority to hold remote hearings and bill markups.

The House Rules Committee has scheduled a hearing on both measures on Thursday beginning at 11 a.m. in the Longworth House Office Building.

The cornerstone of the so-called Heroes Act is nearly $1 trillion for states, cities and tribal governments to avert layoffs, with $375 billion going to smaller suburban and rural municipalities largely left out of earlier bills.

The bill will offer a fresh round of $1,200 direct cash aid to individuals, increased to up to $6,000 per household, and launches a $175 billion housing assistance fund to help pay rents and mortgages. There is $75 billion more for virus testing.

It would continue, through January, the $600-per-week boost to unemployment benefits. It adds a 15% increase for food stamps and new help for paying employer-backed health coverage. For businesses, it provides an employee retention tax credit.

It also includes funding for nutrition assistance, something Leader Hoyer said was a response to “the tragedy we see of miles long lines at food banks and food distribution centers.”

The package includes provisions for student loan relief and assistance to states for education.

In addition, it will include funding to facilitate any changes needed to carry out the November election.

“It is a critically, critically important election and we have to facilitate everyone casting their vote, expressing their opinion, and setting the course for America for years to come,” Hoyer said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Republicans have called for a pause before enacting another coronavirus relief bill, saying they want to assess the effectiveness of earlier measures before proceeding with another.

“I think I can speak for our conference by saying we’re not ruling that out, but we think we ought to take a pause here, do a good job of evaluating what we’ve already done,” McConnell told reporters last week.

“The Senate Republican majority and the president of the United States are not irrelevant to the process, so we’re going to keep talking to each other and decide to act when and if it’s appropriate to act again,” he said.

On Tuesday, Hoyer said, “While Sen. McConnell and the Republicans have not felt the urgency of acting immediately, there are millions and millions and millions of Americans that see the urgency of a crisis that confronts them every day and they are expecting us to act, to continue to help them at this time of extraordinary challenge to our country.”

When the House returns Friday, voting procedures will be similar to previous efforts to ensure the maximum safety of members, staff, press and others working in the Capitol, Hoyer said.

“We will vote as we did last time, in small groups, so there are no large group of members on the floor at any one point in time,” he said.

Hoyer said he expects the votes to be done in one day. He did not indicate when House members would return to Washington again after Friday’s votes.

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