House Passes $2.2 Trillion Coronavirus Relief Bill

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks during her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON (CN) — House Democrats formally passed an updated version of the Heroes Act Thursday, which would send another round of $1,200 economic relief payments to American families if signed into law by the president. The bill passed by a 214-207 vote.

Congressman Jim McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat who chairs the House’s rules committee, said Wednesday the House would substitute a rules committee print in a Senate amendment and vote on the measure. The substituted text, he said, was identical to the Heroes Act.

That measure would pass convincingly, by a 225-188 vote. On Thursday however, more than a dozen Democrats voted against the measure.

Congresswoman Nita Lowey said Thursday’s $2.2 trillion version of the Heroes Act would provide $436 billion for state local and territorial governments, along with $75 billion for testing and contact tracing of those infected or possibly infected with coronavirus.

An additional $28 billion would go to procurement, education and distribution campaigns for a Covid-19 vaccine, she said, along with $120 billion for stimulus for the restaurant industry.

Senate Republicans pushed back against the full Heroes Act in July, introducing their own $1 trillion version that also provided for the reconstruction of the FBI’s Washington headquarters. Democrats would block a vote on that bill, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer calling it, “completely inadequate.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi maintained throughout August that the plan didn’t come close to meeting the needs of Americans, asserting the House would not recess without passing additional legislation. 

The House passed a more than $3 trillion relief bill in May, which would have provided $500 billion to states and $375 billion for local governments confronting the pandemic. The full Heroes Act would have included a $600 weekly enhanced unemployment benefit and a resupply of $1,200 stimulus checks.

Increased protections for workplace standards during the pandemic would be included in Thursday’s bill, Lowey said, along with protections of healthcare for Americans unemployed in light of record national unemployment. Unemployment benefits also would be extended, along with providing for rental and mortgage insurance for Americans.

Lowey said the bill represented a “compromise,” although negotiations for a bipartisan measure between Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, continued into Thursday evening. Lowey said she “ardently hoped” the House could return to the floor with a bipartisan agreement.

“In the meantime, a strong vote tonight will show our will to act and bring us closer to delivering much needed relief to American families,” Lowey said.

From the House floor, Pelosi said no other bill forwarded by Republicans included any provisions aimed at helping working families, like a refundable child tax credit. Later, Pelsoi told reporters there would not be a resolution on ongoing stimulus talks with Mnuchin.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, said housing assistance was one of the most-important measures within the bill. Half a million Americans before the pandemic were experiencing homelessness before the pandemic, she said, noting the “catastrophic eviction crisis,” with families struggling to pay rent. An estimated 14.2 million renter households are currently at risk for evictions.

“Mr. Speaker, this bill isn’t everything that is needed, but it is a good faith effort to bridge the gap in negotiations with our Republican colleagues,” Waters said. “It’s time for Republicans to stop blocking coronavirus relief and support this legislation.”

Congresswoman Kay Granger, a Texas Republican, said her caucus would oppose the legislation as it was not drafted in a bipartisan fashion. Some of the included provisions, she said, she could not support; which included “partisan provisions unrelated to the pandemic,” and enabling “illegal immigrants to receive direct payments.”

“Including so many unnecessary items just to cater to the demands of a few, could result in gridlock in a time where compromise and real results are still in reach,” Granger said. “After all the good work we’ve done together to provide relief and hope to the American people, I’m very disappointed that this is the bill that the majority has chosen to bring to the floor.”

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