House Passes $2.2 Trillion Coronavirus Relief Bill in Absence of Bipartisan Deal
October 2, 2020
WASHINGTON—The House passed a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill Thursday as bipartisan negotiations with the Trump administration dragged on, with Democrats moving forward on their legislation in the absence of a deal with Republicans.
The vote had earlier been postponed to give House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin more time to agree on an aid package. But those conversations haven’t yet yielded a bipartisan agreement.
“We’re still far apart,” Mrs. Pelosi said Thursday. “Hopefully, we can find our common ground on this and do so soon.”
Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Mnuchin spoke multiple times on Thursday. Mrs. Pelosi said Thursday evening she was going to review documents from Mr. Mnuchin, but no deal was likely Thursday evening.
The legislation passed 214-207, with 18 Democrats joining Republicans in opposition to the bill.
The Democratic bill would give money to state and local governments, send another round of stimulus checks to many Americans, reinstate a $600 weekly supplement to unemployment benefits, and give assistance to airlines, restaurants and performance venues, among other measures. Republicans have panned the bill, giving it no chance of passage in the GOP-controlled Senate.
After Mrs. Pelosi put forward her $2.2 trillion plan this week, Mr. Mnuchin made a $1.6 trillion counteroffer, an increase from the $1.5 trillion that the administration had previously signaled it could support. The new offer from Mr. Mnuchin included $250 billion in funding for state and local governments, which has been a key disagreement in the talks. Republicans had earlier offered $150 billion for state and local governments.
The Democrats’ $2.2 trillion price tag marks a reduction from the $3.5 trillion bill House Democrats passed in May. Instead of the $915 billion for state and local governments Democrats originally sought, their new bill now seeks $436 billion for localities and municipalities.
Whether the two sides can close the remaining distance, though, is unclear. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Thursday that Mrs. Pelosi should accept the administration’s new offer.
“It is a good proposal, but it is one she is not interested in,” she said of Mrs. Pelosi. She didn’t rule out a further revision to the White House position. “Right now, we have the $1.6 trillion number, and I’ll let you know if that number goes up,” she said.
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Both the White House and House Democrats are renewing their attempts to reach a deal as the absence of another stimulus bill is beginning to visibly weigh on the economy. With no new aid in sight,
American Airlines Group Inc.
United Airlines Holdings Inc.
said they would go forward for now with a total of more than 32,000 job cuts.
Government data showed U.S. household income fell sharply in August, due to a drop in unemployment benefits. Worker layoffs also remained high. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expect the September unemployment rate, set to be released Friday, to improve to 8.2% from 8.4% in the prior month.
Ahead of Thursday’s vote, some centrist Democrats had pushed for the House to take up a bill to demonstrate action in the weeks before the election. Some Democratic lawmakers had said they would join with Republicans on a procedural motion to compel a floor vote on small-business aid if House leaders didn’t tee up another vote.
In reaching a deal, House Democrats and the Trump administration also face another obstacle: Senate Republicans opposed to again doling out money for a major aid package. Many Republicans in the Senate see the economy recovering without additional aid injections and are wary of further deficit spending.
After a $1 trillion plan from GOP leaders didn’t draw broad support in their party, last month, Senate Republicans put together a “skinny” proposal to try to unify their ranks. That bill, which called for $300 billion in new funds and repurposing $350 billion in other funds, failed in the Senate when Democrats blocked it. Senate Republicans said they might not be able to support a package as expensive as the one Mr. Mnuchin has offered.
“If the Secretary is over $1.6 trillion then I think he’s out-negotiated his majority in the Senate,” said Sen. Roger Wicker (R., Miss.).
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said he would continue to leave the negotiations to Mrs. Pelosi and the White House.
“If they can reach an agreement, I’ll take a look at it and see whether I can sell that to Senate Republicans,” he said on Fox News.
As the election nears, skepticism has grown on Capitol Hill that an agreement is possible at this stage. Time to cut a deal is running out: The House is slated to leave for a monthlong recess at the end of this week, though Mrs. Pelosi has said she would hold the House in session and continue working with the administration.
Any deal would have to pass the Senate, which is currently focused on filling a Supreme Court vacancy and planning to recess much of October.
Democratic lawmakers are also looking ahead to the election. Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, is up in nationwide polls, and some prognosticators favor Democrats to win the Senate. Some Democratic lawmakers see the increased potential for an aid package after the inauguration.
“We’re getting ready for what comes next, but we need stuff now,” Mrs. Pelosi said.
Write to Andrew Duehren at email@example.com and Natalie Andrews at Natalie.Andrews@wsj.com