- Democrats passed a $2.2 trillion stimulus plan that contained another round of direct payments, federal unemployment benefits, and small business aid.
- But Republicans are likely to reject the package in the Senate.
- The Trump administration put forward a $1.6 trillion plan in negotiations with Democrats, but they rebuffed it as insufficient.
- Bipartisan talks between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are set to continue.
- Learn more about the race for a coronavirus vaccine in our live event on October 5. Sign up here.
House Democrats passed a $2.2 trillion stimulus plan to send aid to individuals, businesses, and states on Wednesday, advancing a bill that has no shot at becoming law due to staunch Republican opposition.
The legislation passed by a party-line vote of 214-207, with 17 Democrats voting against the package.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on the House floor the plan would prioritize average Americans and help keep them afloat during a pandemic.
“This is not just a money debate and a language debate, it’s a values debate,” she said. “It’s important for people to know what this fight is about. The people have needs and we have to meet them.”
The Democratic legislation contains a second round of $1,200 direct payments to taxpayers and a revival of the $600 federal unemployment benefits that expired in late July. It also included significant aid to cash-strapped state and local governments, as well as small businesses.
Republicans such as Rep. Kay Granger of Texas, the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee, assailed it and contended the legislation had divisive measures undercutting its chances of becoming law.
“It is very disappointing that we have come to this point because I support many initiatives in this bill, especially assistance for small businesses, the airline industry, and our schools,” Granger said in a statement. “However, I cannot overlook, nor overstate, the partisan and outright dangerous policies buried in this bill’s text.”
The passage of the bill comes as the fifth day of negotiations between Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin crept along with few signs of a breakthrough. Initial talks around a stimulus bill collapsed in August but they restarted in earnest this week, and Pelosi said they would continue even as the Democratic-led House went ahead and approved the stimulus package.
Pelosi was noncommittal about striking a deal, per Capitol Hill pool reports on Thursday evening. “I don’t know. We’ll see, it just depends,” she said.
Some Democrats were also critical of the legislation. Rep. Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, a moderate, voted against it and urged her party to consider an alternate proposal that would garner Republican support.
“My focus remains on working with Democrats and Republicans to get relief to my district immediately, and partisan gamesmanship will not do it,” she said in a statement.
Pressure has risen on lawmakers to strike a deal before they adjourn next week until after the election. Millions of Americans are out of work and struggling to afford food and rent. And many economists have urged Congress to authorize additional spending to keep people and businesses afloat.
Mnuchin presented a $1.6 trillion counteroffer on Thursday. It included $400 weekly federal unemployment benefits, direct payments, as well as aid to restaurants and small businesses. Democrats rejected it, with Pelosi calling it “not even a loaf,” in a Bloomberg TV interview.
The House is set to adjourn next week and will not reconvene until after the election.
Read more: Stimulus talks resume as dealmakers work toward another round of checks. Here’s everything you need to know about the rescue package.
The Democratic legislation is likely to be rejected in the GOP-controlled Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell derided it as “outlandish” on Wednesday. He was still cool on it a deal a day later.
“I’d like to see another rescue package, we’ve been trying for months to get there,” he said.
Many Republican senators balked at an earlier $1 trillion stimulus plan, arguing it would swell the national debt. Democrats blocked a “skinny” $650 billion package from the GOP last month, dismissing it as “emaciated” and inadequate.
A lack of a stimulus deal threatens to further damage the economy
The latest Democratic plan was unveiled after Pelosi faced pressure from moderate members to pass a slimmer version of another $3.4 trillion spending package the House approved in May — that was rejected by the Senate. The newest package tossed out hazard pay for essential workers and slashed the amount of money for state aid in half.
State aid and unemployment benefits are major areas of friction between Republicans and Democrats, along with liability protections for businesses.
Another dispute is also emerging: expanding the child tax credit. That reduces the taxes owed by families with kids 17 and under. House Democrats are seeking to give people with children the option of receiving a modest monthly federal payment regardless of their income. But the Trump administration offered no funding for it in their plan.
Without further aid, experts say the threat of another wave of layoffs or furloughs looms as businesses struggle to adjust to lower demand and grapple with revenue losses. Airlines and restaurants in particular have been calling for another infusion of federal money.
Disney said on Tuesday it was cutting 28,000 theme park jobs from its resorts, which is around 25% of the company’s US workforce. The largest chunk of them is part-time jobs.