WASHINGTON — House Democrats proposed a $3 trillion virus relief bill Tuesday, combining aid to state and local governments with direct cash payments, expanded unemployment insurance, and food stamp spending as well as a list of progressive priorities like funds for voting by mail and for the troubled US Postal Service.
While there is little chance of the aid package gaining Senate approval and President Trump’s signature as written, passage in the Democratic-led House gives Speaker Nancy Pelosi a marker to set down. Both parties are positioning themselves for elections in less than six months.
It’s also the opening bid in negotiations with the Trump administration and Senate Republicans.
“Not acting is the most expensive course,” Pelosi said at the Capitol. “We face the biggest catastrophe in our nation’s history.”
The bill is a followup to the $3 trillion Congress has already spent in response to the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The legislation is slated for a House vote on Friday.
Trump said last week he’s in “no rush” to get another aid package, but last week’s jobs report that showed employers cut 20.5 million jobs in April, and statements from the president’s economic advisers that the unemployment rate will hit 20 percent or more, are certain to add urgency to talks.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday dismissed the bill as a “big laundry list of pet priorities” and indicated the GOP would ignore the Democratic proposal.
“What Nancy Pelosi is proposing will never pass the Senate,” Wyoming’s John Barrasso, the third-ranking Republican in the chamber, told reporters.
Among its key provisions, the bill would give about $1 trillion in aid for state and local governments. Of that, $500 billion would go to states, $375 billion to localities, $20 billion to tribal governments, and $20 billion to territories. $90 billion would go to states through education grants.
Democrats also propose providing $1,200 in cash payments to individuals and $1,200 for dependent children — up to $6,000 per household — at a cost of $599 billion. The bill would make dependent children up to the age of 24 eligible for payments, responding to complaints that college students were left out of the earlier round. It would also allow undocumented immigrants to receive payments.
The legislation also would extend a $600 weekly increase to unemployment insurance into next January.
One of the provisions highlighted by Pelosi is $200 billion to fund what Democrats describes as “hazard pay” for essential workers who’ve had to risk exposure to the virus.