- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 17, 2020

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday that she’s ready to negotiate with Republicans on the next coronavirus rescue bill, with her opening offer being the $3 trillion spending package the House recently passed.

Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, has pushed back against the partisan label on her bill, arguing its no different than the proposals put forth by the GOP on previous packages.

“No bill that is proffered will become law without negotiation,” Mrs. Pelosi said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

The bill does not include Republican-sought liability protection priorities. Mrs. Pelosi said they prefer to ramp up Occupational Safety and Health Administration protections for workers, but didn’t rule out considering the GOP concerns.

“We have no red lines,” she said.

House Democrats pushed the package through on a 208-199 vote late Friday night, despite pushback from both Republicans and some Democrats.

The bill is considered dead on arrival in the Republican-run Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is focused on passing liability protections for small business owners and health care providers to deal with coronavirus lawsuits when they reopen.

The Trump administration has also shot down the bill. White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said they are focused on an “innovation” agenda.

“Nancy Pelosi basically lost me with that package when she has $1,200 checks for illegal immigrants,” he said on ABC News’s “This Week.”

Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, slammed Mrs. Pelosi for refusing to allow members more time to negotiate on the bill and pushing a partisan wish-list with “ideas that were created long before COVID.”

“There wasn’t one committee hearing on $3 trillion,” Mr. McCarthy said. “This will be the largest bill in the history of the United States that we have ever voted on. And not one hearing. Not even input from committees, or from people on the other side of the aisle or bicameral.”

While Republicans want to wait and see what needs arise as states begin to reopen, Mrs. Pelosi called for urgency.

“Time is of the essence,” she said. “They may think it’s OK to take a pause, but people are hungry across America. Hunger doesn’t take a pause.”

Democrat defections came from the far left and more right-leaning wings of the party. Progressives voiced frustration that the bill wouldn’t do enough for unemployment or health care, while moderates noted the numerous unrelated items that are known poison bills for the GOP.

Fourteen Democrats voted against the bill, most from conservative districts Mr. Trump won in 2016 but also Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-chair Pramila Jayapal.

Ms. Jayapal, Washington Democrat, felt the bill didn’t ensure worker paycheck protections and providing equal access to health care.

If 17 Democrats broke rank, the bill would not have passed.

House Democrats dubbed the $3 trillion-plus package the HEROES Act, which stands for the “Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act.”

The package would provide more than $800 billion for state and local governments — a major priority for Democrats that didn’t make it into previous rescue bills.

Additionally, the bill would expand access to voting by mail by saying states can’t impose additional requirements on otherwise eligible voters to cast an absentee ballot through the mail.

Another $175 billion would go to rent and mortgage subsidies and $25 billion would prop up the struggling U.S. Post Office.

The bill eliminates for two years a $10,000 cap on the state and local tax deduction, a prized benefit for generally higher-income residents in blue, high-tax states. The cap was imposed as part of the 2017 GOP tax cuts.

“The chairman of the Fed has told us to think big. It’s never going to be cheaper, he said, because the cost of interest is so low. The cost of credit is so low,” Mrs. Pelosi said Friday. “I say not to act now is not only irresponsible in a humanitarian way — it is irresponsible because it’s only going to cost more. More in terms of lives, livelihoods, cost to the budget, cost to our democracy.”

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