The House of Representatives narrowly approved on Thursday an amended version of an economic relief package against the COVID-19 pandemic for $2.2 trillion, which it had already approved last May, as negotiations with the White House continue.
Democratic legislation was passed after a 214-207 vote in the lower house, with no Republican to support it.
The legislation, called Heroes 2.0, will now go to the Senate where it is expected to die, as differences between the two seats prevail in what should include new aid because of the financial impact of the pandemic. Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell said yesterday: “The idea of Senate Republicans going up to $2.2 trillion is far-fetched”
They approve Heroes 2.0 Act proposal that includes second check: Now what?
The lower house passed a small bill that needs Senate approval to become law. At the same time, negotiations for a more comprehensive bill continue.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had told reporters tonight that negotiations with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were still standing, though she showed little optimism for reaching an agreement.
“Even if we come to an agreement, nothing is definitive until an agreement is reached on everything,” Pelosi explained.
Democratic plan approval and negotiations with Republicans come amid fatal economic news for Americans. Airlines will fire some 30,000 workers after the expiry of the aid approved earlier this year, and a report released on Thursday showed that 837,000 people applied for unemployment benefits for the first time last week.
What will happen to the expected new check?
What was buckled by the lower house on Thursday does not bring lawmakers to deliver concrete aid to Americans.
Until there is an agreement with Republicans and the White House, there will be no more generous weekly unemployment payments or extended aid for small businesses and especially hit economic sectors such as restaurants and airlines.
Nor is another round of direct payments of $1,200 to most Americans.
If negotiations fail before the November election, this could mean that there will be no significant aid for families and businesses in difficulty until next year.
Where are the negotiations?
Pelosi and some of Congressional’s top Democratic leaders have held a series of talks with Mnuchin about the contents of the economic relief package, but there are still unresolved issues related to the inclusion of a tax credit for families with minor children, more small business aids, and more funds for health coverage.
New Mexico Democratic Congressman Ben Ray Luján explained that his bench has negotiated in good faith with Republicans about another round of AID for the COVID-19 pandemic, and that it is Republicans who obstruct the negotiations.
With the new version, “we’re looking for a middle ground with Republicans, we cut the package by a trillion dollars… I remain optimistic that we will reach an agreement.” Luján is the highest-ranking Hispanic in House history.
“Here the only absentee of the negotiations has been the leader of the Republican majority in the Senate, Mitch McConnell… with the first relief package, the CARES Act, we also saw resistance from Republicans in the Senate and some Republicans in the lower house,” he complained.
For Democrats, the best option on the table is their review of their Heroes Act, because it would include a second round of direct checks for $1,200 to middle-class and working-class families.
That measure is an amended version of the bill of the same name as the Democratic-controlled lower house, passed last May. However, even if Democrats approve its modified version, the measure does not have enough votes for approval in the Senate.
In addition to direct checks, the Democratic measure restores additional unemployment subsidies, for $600 a week, which were included in the first economic relief package approved last March but expired last July.