- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 1, 2020

House Democrats narrowly pushed through their $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package Thursday evening, codifying their latest offer to Republicans before the November election.

The package passed on a 214-207 basis, with a surge of 18 moderate frontline Democrats defecting from the party.

Many of those rank-and-file members, particularly the ones from tough swing districts, have been pushing party leaders since August to put another relief bill to a vote before the election.

Those that defected were wary of supporting a one-sided effort while bipartisan talks were ongoing.

The last time any sort of COVID-19 relief package passed either chamber was in May, when the House passed a $3.4 trillion package. Fourteen Democrats voted against that bill.

The Democrats’ bill reauthorizes the small business Paycheck Protection Program and provides another round of $1,200 stimulus checks, as well as $225 billion for education, $57 billion for child care, $75 billion for COVID-19 testing and tracing, and relief for the airline and restaurant industries.

It also includes increased food assistance benefits, $436 billion in state, local, and tribal government funding, more OSHA worker protections, $3.6 billion for election resources and a restoration of the $600 a week boosted unemployment payments.

The Democrats’ bill has no chance of getting any traction in the GOP-controlled Senate.

“The thought that Senate Republicans would jump up to $2.2 trillion is outlandish,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said Wednesday.

Democrats held the vote Thursday evening despite talks for a bipartisan comprehensive package continuing between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, and Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.

They met Thursday afternoon and remained at a “distance on key areas,” according to Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill.

Mrs. Pelosi told reporters later that evening she didn’t know when or if a deal could be reached, noting that it was not just dollar amounts but also legislative language that needed to be agreed to.

Republicans trashed the bill as another tone-deaf partisan exercise from Democrats.

“Everybody in this chamber knows that this bill is going nowhere because they didn’t even work with Republicans to try to draft a proposal that can actually address the needs of families who are struggling,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, Louisiana Republican, said.

Mrs. Pelosi defended the Democrats’ all-or-nothing approach to negotiations, arguing that caving just for bipartisan sake would hurt Americans more in the long run.

“I feel confident we can [reach a deal], but we can’t do that if we take the path of least resistance, and just do whatever they put forth,” the speaker said, as she outlined the gaps in negotiations on the floor. “That’s doing their bill, that’s not doing the people’s work.”

Many feel the vote on this partisan package marks the end of any hope to get a deal done before the November election, but Mrs. Pelosi insisted that is not the case.

“There’s no relation to anything. It just says, you asked, here’s what it is. This is how we came down,” she said.

The speaker explained at a press conference earlier on Thursday that the GOP’s insistence on a business tax credit and her party’s push for a child tax credit and more funding for state and local governments were among the sticking points.

At the White House, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany blamed the hold up on Mrs. Pelosi for rejecting their $1.6 trillion offer. Ms. McEnany touted that they included $250 billion for state and local governments and $150 billion for schools in that proposal.

• Gabriella Muñoz can be reached at gmunoz@washingtontimes.com.

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