The House of Representatives narrowly passed a $3 trillion relief package on May 15, 2020. Similar to the previous $2.2 trillion stimulus bill, this package aims to continue the direct cash payments to Americans: $1,200 per family member, and up to $6,000 per household. In addition, it looks to extend unemployment benefits by extending unemployment payments through January 2021 which were set to expire in July. Other significant measures of the package are an allocation of $1 trillion in aid for local and state governments, $200 billion to assist essential front-line workers, $175 billion in assistance to renters and home owners, $75 billion towards COVID-19 testing, $3.6 billion for election security, $10 billion for small business loans, $10 billion for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance, and $25 billion for the Postal Service.
The bill only narrowly passed in the House with a margin of 208-199. This package has been criticized for being partisan, and it was further exemplified of being so when the votes were casted.
Almost all of the representatives voted along party lines with the exception of 14 Democrat representatives that opposed the bill and one Republican representative that supported it.
Representative Kendra Horn, a Democrat from Oklahoma, stated in her press release, “But unfortunately, the HEROES Act contains many measures unrelated to direct COVID-19 relief as well as political pet projects.”
Many of the other 14 Democrats felt the same way and called for a more bipartisan measure to be passed. Further, of the 14 Democrats, excluding Representative Pramila Jaypal, many lean more towards the center or their seats may be contested after the election in November and are GOP targets. Representative Pramila Jayapal from Washington, the co-chairwoman of the Progressive Congressional Caucus, opposed the bill because she felt that it did not do enough. The one Republican representative, Peter King from New York, supported the measure because of the aid to state and local governments.
Due to its partisan nature, it is unlikely that it will gain any traction in the Senate. Many Republican Senators have spoken out against the bill, using phrases to describe the bill as “Washington or partisan gamesmanship” and “a partisan wish list.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has also spoken out against the bill by saying that it is a “totally unserious effort” and a “seasonal catalog of left-wing oddities and called it a coronavirus relief bill.” Furthermore, President Donald Trump has outspokenly stated that if the bill were to pass through the Senate, it would be vetoed.
Republican leaders criticized the bill for having measures that are not directly related to the relief and aid needed due to COVID-19. One measure of the bill that highly contested was a rollback on the SALT cap. The SALT cap is from the tax bill that was passed in 2017 that puts a cap of $10,000 a year on each household of deductions in state and local taxes. The repeal of the SALT cap was criticized by Republicans, saying it could disproportionately affect wealthier people in highly taxed states. However, a spokesman for Nancy Pelosi, Henry Connelly, said that the rollback would be “tailored to focus on middle-class earners and include limitations on the higher end.”
In addition, the bill contained measures related to cannabis businesses that allow these businesses more access to traditional banking services and insurance services. Other seemingly “unrelated” measures include $10 million each for the National Endowment of the Arts and $10 million for the National Endowment of the Humanities, $71 million for the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Although the bill is likely to die when it gets to the Senate, Nancy Pelosi has stated that she is open to negotiations. However, many Republicans are also keen on waiting rather than pumping out another stimulus bill at this moment.