On Tuesday, House Democrats revealed their massive new $3 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill. If it passes, it would be the largest relief package ever — taking the crown from the $2 trillion CARES Act Congress passed less than two months ago.
The bill takes ambitious swings at several top progressive priorities, including more money for states and municipalities that are facing massive budget shortfalls due to lost tax revenue. It also includes billions for expanded coronavirus testing, as well as more money for direct cash payments for Americans. Predictably, Senate Republicans have already signaled that this bill is D.O.A. in the chamber, where they hold a majority.
Speaking on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged the legislature to pass the bill, citing the pressing needs of people struggling through the pandemic. "For the families who are suffering though, hunger doesn't take a pause, rent doesn't take a pause, bills don't take a pause, the hardship of losing a job or tragically losing a loved one doesn't take a pause," Pelosi said, adding that the government is facing a "momentous opportunity for us to meet the needs of the American people, to save their lives, their livelihoods and our democracy."
CNN reports that a vote on the package — which Democrats are calling the HEROES Act — is expected Friday. Per a fact sheet released by House Democrats, the act includes a cool $1 trillion for states and governments, right off the bat. This money could play an essential role in staving off a longer recession, according to many economists, because it will prevent states from laying off firemen, teachers, garbagemen, and all the other government employees whose paychecks depend on tax revenue.
The bill then calls for around $200 billion earmarked for hazard pay for essential workers, many of whom are currently expected to risk their lives to continue working without receiving a raise. There’s also $75 billion for increased COVID-19 testing and contact tracing. Furthermore, the bill will extend the $600 unemployment boost that many laid-off workers are currently receiving to January 2021; currently, it’s set to expire on July 31.
Perhaps the most direct line item for many people, though, is the bill’s proposal for a new round of one-time direct cash payments of $1,200 per person, with a maximum infusion of $6,000 per family. The idea of cash to Americans has gained a bit of traction among Democrats, with lawmakers in both the House and Senate introducing bills for ongoing monthly payments.
Of course, all of this is just wishful thinking without Republicans in the Senate on board. And that appears unlikely for the time being. The White House, too, signaled that it wanted to hold off on new coronavirus relief packages just last week.
"That will not pass. It's not going to be supported," said Sen. John Barrasso (Wyo.), a top-ranking Republican, in an interview with CNN on Tuesday. Still, even if this bill never becomes law, it represents the Democrats’ opening salvo in their negotiations with the GOP over the next round of stimulus. As far as gestures go, it’s a big one.