Even before House Democrats presented their next coronavirus bill proposal, Republicans were anticipating a liberal “wish list” — and it looks like they got it.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) revealed the Democrats’ opening offer on Tuesday — and it is a gargantuan proposal that could cost $3 trillion, the most expensive bill yet, the Associated Press reported.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has long been clear that he’s in no rush to approve another expensive stimulus bill after Congress passed the CARES Act, the most costly bill of its kind in American history, in March. But it’s unlikely that Democrats will make things easy for him in the next round of negotiations.
Pelosi’s “wish list”
Republicans seemed to anticipate trouble as House Dems were finalizing their proposal for the new bill, with Sen. Jon Barrasso (R-WY) calling the drafts he’d seen a “wish list” and a “fairy tale,” The Hill reported. Another GOP senator told The Hill that the bill “has everything but the kitchen sink in there.” House Republicans also derided the proposal, with Rep. Kevin McCarthy calling it a “liberal wish list.”
Since passing the last big bill, Democrats have prioritized protections for healthcare workers, a goal that found its way into the name of the bill, called the HEROES Act, and funding for state and local governments, which became a political arena recently between McConnell and Democrats like New York’s governor Andrew Cuomo.
Pelosi finally laid out the Democrats’ budget-shattering proposal on Tuesday: a roughly $3 trillion package that lavishes funding on those priorities while expanding policies from previous bills. Included are $1 trillion in aid for state and local governments, $200 billion in “hazard pay” for essential workers, and some $75 billion for testing, the Associated Press reported.
The bill also piggybacks on the CARES Act with additional $1,200 stimulus checks for Americans (with up to $6,000 per household), and it expands the extra $600 per week for unemployment insurance from CARES, according to Fox News.
The Democrat “wish list” continues with some $175 billion to help people pay rents and mortgages, $25 billion for the U.S. Postal Service, and it covers student loan forgiveness, mail-in voting, and more. According to CBS, extensions on work visas for immigrants (during the worst labor crisis since the Great Depression) are also included. Restrictions on President Donald Trump’s ability to fire inspectors general are included in the bill as well, The Hill reported.
Republicans slam brakes
McConnell has consistently urged a “wait and see” approach, as the financial assistance from previous bills kicks in. McConnell said Tuesday that the bill is not connected “with reality,” but Pelosi and Co. say that there’s no time to wait. (There’s still plenty of time for the economy to waste away, though.)
“There are those who said, ‘Let’s just pause,’” Pelosi said. “Hunger doesn’t take a pause. Rent doesn’t take a pause. Bills don’t take a pause.”
McConnell wants the next bill to include liability protections for corporations — a provision he says is needed to protect firms from a swarm of coronavirus-related lawsuits. Democrats have indicated that they aren’t willing to negotiate over it, setting the stage for another partisan food fight.
Republicans have criticized Pelosi’s role in forming coronavirus legislation, insisting she has taken advantage of the crisis to push for more costly policy items in line with a far-left agenda. It looks like Dems are sticking to that approach. A vote on the new bill could come soon as Friday in the House, but the Senate is unlikely to take it up before Memorial Day, according to the AP.