A COVID-19 relief bill should come to a vote in the House next week, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Wednesday, amid calls from rank and file House Democrats urging party leadership for another vote before the election.
The Maryland Democrat told reporters that he’s still holding out hope for a last-minute deal between Democrats and Republicans, but even if one isn’t reached, argued the House should still send another package over to the other chamber.
“There may not be an ability to put together a bill in that timeframe, but I have been urging for some weeks that we do an alternative response to the Senate,” he said. “Not because I think we ought to negotiate with ourselves, but the Speaker has set the amount of resources that we are prepared to deal with. I think we ought to put that into legislation…and give it to the Senate. Senate will do with it what they will.”
“I think we ought to be taking up COVID-19 legislation before we leave here, and I don’t think we ought to wait. People are really hurting,” he added.
Talks between the White House and top Democrats have been virtually non-existent since they collapsed in August, with little movement on either side to restart serious negotiations.
No proposal has passed either chamber since the House passed its $3.4 trillion package in May.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, has been trying to keep her conference in line with her strategy of holding out for a new deal before holding any additional votes. She and her top lieutenants argue that they already did their duty by passing their own bill in May and offering to lower their ask to about $2.4 trillion.
Mrs. Pelosi said last week that the House would stay in session until a deal with the White House was reached, but that really doesn’t change much from how the House has been operating on stand-by from their districts for months.
Mr. Hoyer’s comments echo the sentiments of dozens of rank and file Democrats who have been pushing leadership for votes on new proposals, targeted fixes, a $500 billion bipartisan framework, or even another Democrat-led bill before the October recess.
“Our constituents do not want us home campaigning while businesses continue to. shutter, families struggle to pay the bills, food bank lines lengthen, schools struggle to reopen, pressures grow on hospital systems and state and local budget shortfalls means communities consider layoffs,” a bipartisan coalition of more than 30 members wrote in a letter to both Mrs. Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy this week.
While Democratic anxiety grows, Republicans are ramping up the pressure with a motion known as a “discharge petition” that would force a vote on a targeted fix to fund the expired small-business Paycheck Protection Program.
If all 198 Republicans and independent Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan sign on to the resolution, introduced by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington, they would only need 19 Democrats to bring it to a vote.
Mr. McCarthy, California Republican, dared Democrats to join them, arguing they needed to buck party to help their constituents.
“All it takes is to put your signature down,” he said at a press conference. “If your constituents have selected you to be a member of Congress, they didn’t select you to follow Nancy Pelosi… This is your chance to show that you’re different.”
Mr. Hoyer, his in own press conference, urged his members not to support the motion.
“I hope that no one, no Democrat, signs the discharge petition that is being proposed, which will certainly help some people… but will leave everybody else in the lurch,” he said, adding that a successful discharge petition “turns over control of the House floor to the other party, the minority party.”