House Passes Trimmed Down Coronavirus Relief Bill

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Aug. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (CN) — The House voted Wednesday to approve a scaled-down version of the Heroes Act, sending the coronavirus stimulus measure to the Republican-controlled Senate by a 225-188 vote.

While Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin could not broker a deal after meeting Wednesday morning to discuss a bipartisan relief measure, Pelosi indicated in the early afternoon that the House would go ahead with a vote on a $2.2 trillion stimulus bill. In a statement, she also said conversations with the Treasury Department would continue. 

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.”

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.

Congressman Jim McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat who chairs the House’s rules committee, said Wednesday’s rule provided for the substitution of a rules committee print in a Senate amendment. The substituted text, he said, was identical to the Heroes Act.

Wednesday’s measure will provide $75 billion for Covid-19 testing and contact tracing while providing $225 billion for education and child care. $436 billion is set aside for state, local, territorial and tribal governments with a continuation of $1,200 relief checks to Americans.

“More than 205,000 Americans have lost their lives due to coronavirus and more than 7 million more have been affected,” McGovern said. “Millions of people are out of work; small businesses are struggling, and some have had to shut their doors forever. Our economy hasn’t taken a hit like this since the Great Depression.”

Congressman Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican, called the bill a “partisan wish list under the guise of coronavirus relief bill.” 

House Democrats should be focusing on creating a bill where both sides can agree on the text, Cole said, as the bill presented a “plethora of provisions completely unrelated to coronavirus relief.”

“Indeed, just like in May, today’s bill is more akin to a Democratic policy wish list than to an actual relief bill,” Cole said. “And just like in May, we all know what the end result will be. The Senate will not pass this bill and the president will not sign it into law.”

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, a Texas Democrat, said the stress of dealing with a world embroiled in Covid-19 had prompted Houston-area lawmakers to create a mental health hotline for Americans affected by the virus.

“And so, I rise today to say the American people cannot take it anymore. The stress is enormous,” Jackson Lee said. “And what we have done here is a very merciful response to the bill we already passed, that our friends conflicted with each other and the White House cannot seem to get a grip on.” 

She added: “What don’t my good friends understand; that people are desperate and they are in need?”

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