Democrats Present GOP With Yet Another Opportunity to Pass COVID Relief

Progressive advocacy groups and labor leaders are urging Senate Republicans and the Trump White House to stop stonewalling and immediately approve a Covid-19 relief package unveiled late Monday by House Democrats that would renew the expired $600-per-week federal unemployment supplement, send another round of $1,200 stimulus checks to most Americans, and provide aid to faltering state and local governments.

The $2.2 trillion legislation, announced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) just weeks ahead of the November election, represents a compromise version of the $3.4 trillion HEROES Act that the Democrat-controlled House approved more than four months ago. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) dismissed the House-passed version as an “unserious liberal wish list” and has refused to allow a vote on the measure despite still-deteriorating economic conditions and surging coronavirus cases nationwide.

Lee Saunders, president of the 1.3 million-member American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), said in a statement Monday evening that the latest iteration of the HEROES Act “represents a good faith effort to renew constructive negotiations and finally deliver the relief that families and communities need.”

“The ball is now in the court of Senate Republicans and the White House, as it has been for more than four months,” said Saunders. “While the Senate has wasted no time trying to illegitimately jam through a Supreme Court nomination, they continue to turn their backs on the suffering and hardship of millions of people, as the worst public health crisis in a century rages on. Speaker Pelosi’s overture provides another opportunity to put progress ahead of partisanship and get something done.”

In addition to providing badly needed relief to tens of millions of jobless and hungry Americans, the revised HEROES Act also includes emergency funding for schools, election assistance, the U.S. Postal Service, housing aid, and coronavirus testing and tracing.

Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, called on both the House and Senate to “immediately pass the revised HEROES Act to provide aid to the most marginalized communities that have been devastated by the pandemic and economic recession, and to protect public health.”

“With the country soaring past 200,000 Covid-19 deaths, it is long past time for Congress to take action,” said Gupta. “We applaud the additional funding for elections and the extension of the census counting operations and reporting deadlines to ensure the most accurate census possible in the wake of the pandemic. Fair and free elections, and an accurate census, are cornerstones of our democracy.”

The National Education Association (NEA), the largest labor union in the U.S., applauded House Democrats for putting forth “a plan that prioritizes the nation’s students, educators, schools, and campuses in the continued fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.”

“This is the second time House Democrats, led by Speaker Pelosi, have stepped up with a health and economic plan that meets the nation’s needs, and stands in stark contrast to the months of time wasted by Mitch McConnell, who hit the pause button while the pandemic continued to rage,” said NEA president Becky Pringle. “House Democrats have again stepped up. Will McConnell and the White House ever do the same?”

Late Monday, Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin resumed coronavirus relief negotiations that have been stalled for months due to the White House’s refusal to approve a relief package larger than $1.5 trillion — a price tag Democratic congressional leaders have slammed as far too low to meet the needs of struggling Americans and cash-strapped state and local governments, which are already beginning to lay off teachers and other public-sector employees.

As the New York Times reported, “Absent an agreement with the administration, the House could vote as early as this week to approve the legislation, responding to growing pressure for Congress to provide additional relief and quelling the concerns of moderate lawmakers unwilling to leave Washington for a final stretch of campaigning without voting on another round of aid.”

“But at roughly $1 trillion more than what Mr. Mnuchin has signaled the White House is willing to consider,” the Times noted, “the package is likely just a starting point, all but guaranteed to be rejected by the Republican majority in the Senate should the House pass it in its current form.”

In a Dear Colleague letter late Monday, Pelosi presented the revised HEROES Act as House Democrats’ “proffer to Republicans to come to negotiations to address the health and economic catastrophe in our country.”

“This $2.2 trillion HEROES Act provides the absolutely needed resources to protect lives, livelihoods and the life of our democracy over the coming months,” Pelosi wrote. “Democrats are making good on our promise to compromise with this updated bill, which is necessary to address the immediate health and economic crisis facing America’s working families right now.”