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Pelosi Lays Down Marker in Coronavirus Bill Vote Amid Doubts
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pushing ahead with a vote on a $3 trillion Democratic-only virus relief bill Friday despite the misgivings of some liberals and moderates in her party and the fact it has no chance of ever getting signed into law.
Pelosi is counting on key parts of the bill — aid to states, more payments to individuals and extending unemployment insurance — to generate enough public support that the White House and the GOP will be forced into negotiations on another round of stimulus for a hobbled U.S. economy.
“I am optimistic that the American people will weigh in and make their views known,” the speaker said on Thursday, deflecting questions about pressing ahead with a partisan vote without any active negotiations with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell or President Donald Trump’s administration.
McConnell has previously said Congress should wait and see the impact of $3 trillion in stimulus already passed before acting on another package. But Thursday night on Fox News he said that “there is a high likelihood that there will be another bill.”
27,368 in U.S.Most new cases today
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-4.8% Global GDP Tracker (annualized), April
McConnell said he’s spoken with Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin about the next phase of stimulus but they’ve set no date for getting it done. He dismissed the House Democratic legislation, known as the Heroes Act, as “a $3 trillion left-wing wish list.”
The White House said Trump would veto it if it ever got to his desk.
The toll of the coronavirus pandemic continues to mount even as some states begin rolling back lockdown orders, allowing businesses to slowly reopen. More than 1.4 million people have been infected and more than 85,000 have died. And since businesses began shutting down in mid-March 36.5 million people have applied for unemployment insurance.
Adding to pressure on lawmakers and the White House is the prospect of an autumn election campaign with the economic hardship continuing.
In a speech on Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned that the U.S. economy faces unprecedented risk if additional fiscal support doesn’t come through.
But McConnell and other Republicans defend their reluctance to swiftly pass another round of pandemic relief by saying that Powell hasn’t explicitly said how quickly lawmakers should act.
Pelosi is positioning the Democrats to lay down the first marker in the negotiations, even if her party isn’t in complete agreement. On one side is the moderate wing expressing skepticism about acting on a partisan bill with no chance of enactment. On the other are progressives who complain the bill isn’t generous enough. Still, Democratic leaders expressed confidence they have the votes to pass it.
Some of the Democrats who were elected in 2018 from swing districts have shied away from some of the bill’s provisions that were designed to appeal to the progressive wing and don’t directly apply to the dislocation caused by the pandemic. They also have urged their leaders to engage with Republicans.
Republicans are targeting some of those Democrats for defeat in November by painting them as supporters of a “socialist wish list.”
One of the most vulnerable Democrats, Oklahoma’s Kendra Horn announced Thursday that she would be voting against the measure.
“Messaging bills without bipartisan support are a disservice to the American people, especially during a time of crisis. This is not the time for partisan gamesmanship, this is the time to find common ground and deliver help where it is needed most,” she said in a press release.
An aide associated with the moderate wing of the party estimated that five to seven swing-district Democrats would vote against the bill, mostly because of the provisions that allow stimulus checks to go to undocumented immigrants. Others are angry about the rush to draw up the legislation, skipping over committees.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus, meanwhile, had pushed Pelosi to delay the vote. Some big ticket items the group wanted didn’t makie it into the legislation.
One proposal would have made regular stimulus payments until the recession ends, rather than just one more round as included in the Heroes Act. Another proposal by CPC leader Pramila Jayapal of Washington State would have paid employers to rehire furloughed workers and covered 100% of their salaries directly up to$100,000 per year. Pelosi said that those provisions were too costly.
“We do feel very much it falls short in terms of regarding recurring payments and the paycheck guarantee,” Michigan Democrat Rashida Tlaib, one of the outspoken first-term progressives, said in an interview Thursday with The Justice Collaborative, a criminal justice advocacy group.
The speaker will be able to claim a small measure of bipartisanship. Republican Representative Peter King of New York said he plans to vote for the bill, in part because it would repeal limits on state and local tax deductions, which have hit residents of his state.
King, who represents a district on Long Island, isn’t running for re-election this fall.