US Democrats Unveil $3 Trillion Virus Relief Package
US Democrats on Tuesday unveiled a $3 trillion coronavirus response package – which includes another round of direct payments to Americans – designed to ease the pandemic’s effects on the health care system and the economy.
The package is the largest yet, to fund efforts to fight the pandemic.
Democratic leaders announced the House will vote on the gargantuan measure this Friday, leaving members with less than three days to pore over the nearly 2,000 page bill.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defended the cost on Capitol Hill Tuesday.
“The chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank has told us to ‘think big’ because interest rates are so low,” Pelosi said. “We intend to use those low interest rates to bolster the American people. We must think big for the people now, because if we don’t, it will cost more in lives and livelihood later. Not acting is the most expensive course.”
Even if the measure clears the House on Friday – the vote is expected to be highly partisan and straight down party lines – there are roadblocks in the Senate, where Republicans have said countless times now that they don’t see an imminent need for another emergency relief package.
The House is also expected to vote on a remote-voting resolution Friday which does not appear to have Republican backing.
According to a summary of the measure, the package would provide nearly $1 trillion in relief for state, local, and tribal governments. Of that amount, $500 billion would go towards states.
It will include a second round of direct payments of $1,200 per family member, and up to $6,000 per household.
The package also extends unemployment benefits, ensuring weekly $600 federal unemployment payments will continue through January 2021. The current extension is set to expire in July.
It also provides for $175 billion in new funding to assist renters and homeowners with their monthly rent and mortgage payments.
The bill will also establish a $200 billion “Heroes Fund” for essential frontline workers, ensuring those workers who risked their lives throughout the pandemic receive hazard pay.
$75 billion would go towards testing, contact tracing, and isolation measures.
It also provides $3.6 billion for “contingency planning, preparation, and resilience of elections for Federal office.”
The measure also bolsters the small business loan program with another $10 billion for emergency grants through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.
Pelosi, who has maintained a constant presence on Capitol Hill, has indicated in recent interviews that she has carefully crafted the measure in concert with several committee chairs over the course of the last several weeks.
This latest bill, if it passes both chambers of Congress, would become the largest, most expensive spending package in U.S. history – trumping the $2.2 trillion measure Congress passed in March.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who knocked the bill as a “liberal wishlist” on Monday, kept up the attack Tuesday.
“We’re going to insist on doing narrowly targeted legislation — if and when we do legislate again and we may well – that addresses the problems, the needs and not the aspirations of the Democrat majority in the House,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday during his weekly press conference.
“Look – we can’t spend enough money to prop this economy up forever,” McConnell stated bluntly. “People need to be able to begin to be productive again. That obviously means that you need to move forward consistent with the (CDC) guidelines that have been laid down by the healthcare professionals toward opening up the economy. It’s the only solution to the dilemma with which we are confronted.”
McConnell has said Senate Republicans would go forth in introducing legislation to offer legal liability protections to businesses, health care providers and the makers of protective gear, to prevent what he warned could be a “second epidemic of frivolous lawsuits.”
Pelosi, for her part, has said Democrats are not interested in supporting “any immunity from liability.”
This new bill requires the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue a strong national standard within seven days requiring all workplaces to implement infection control plans and prevent retaliation against workers who report problems.