WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats are expecting to vote Thursday evening on a revised COVID-19 relief bill as negotiations remained stalled with the White House and a deal on urgently needed aid remains out of reach.
The proposal, a pared-down version of the Heroes Act passed by House Democrats in May, will likely pass the House, but will face opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate, where lawmakers have balked at a higher price tag for more relief.
House Democrats unveiled their $2.2 trillion proposal on Monday, though House Republicans panned the bill as a “socialist wish list,” and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters it would be “outlandish” to think Senate Republicans would support a relief bill over $2 trillion.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Thursday the Trump administration was counteroffering a package with $1.6 trillion in relief funds, leaving the two sides hundreds of billions of dollars apart.
Democrats acknowledge the bill under consideration Thursday evening will not be the final version of a stimulus deal.
“Negotiations are continuing, and I ardently hope that we can soon return to this Floor with a bipartisan agreement,” House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., said on the House floor. “In the meantime, a strong vote tonight will show our will to act and bring us closer to delivering much-needed relief to American families.”
House Democrats had lined up a vote Wednesday evening on the legislation but postponed the vote to give Pelosi and Mnuchin another day to negotiate.
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Pelosi did not appear optimistic Thursday about the prospects of coming to a bipartisan deal on a coronavirus stimulus bill.
While Pelosi said she remained “hopeful” and called talks with Mnuchin “constructive,” she noted that Democrats and the White House had “a difference, not just of dollars, but of values.” She added that her expectation was that Mnuchin would come back Thursday with a “counter” offer on issues in the bill, which could include tax cuts, money for state and local governments and the amount offered to unemployed Americans.
“Hopefully, we can find our common ground on this and do so soon,” the California Democrat said.
But even after Mnuchin and Pelosi spoke again by phone Thursday, Pelosi spokesperson Drew Hammill said “distance on key areas remain.”
The impasse in negotiations comes as many of the benefits previously approved by Congress have already run out. The $600 federal boost to unemployment benefits ran out in July, a loan forgiveness program for small businesses expired, and airlines have warned of mass layoffs and furloughs as their billions of dollars in federal payroll assistance expire on Oct. 1.
The bill, an updated version of legislation passed by House Democrats, would provide a round of $1,200 relief checks, reauthorize the small-business lending program, bring back the $600 federal boost to the unemployment benefit through January and provide assistance for the airline industry.
The bill includes:
$225 billion in education funding, with $182 billion for K-12 schools and about $39 billion for post-secondary education
$120 billion in grants for restaurants
$436 billion in assistance for state, local and tribal governments
$75 billion for COVID-19 testing, tracing and isolation measures
$15 billion in funding for the U.S. Postal Service
Increased food assistance benefits
Among the sticking points in negotiations have been the amount of the unemployment benefit, which Republicans said would disincentivize work if it provides too much money. Democrats offered $600 in their proposals, whereas Republicans offered $200 and $300 in other proposals. Both sides also remain far apart on the amount of aid to give to state and local governments. Republicans are wary of adding to the deficit and say the money would bail out mismanaged local governments.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID-19 stimulus: House to vote on bill as negotiations hit roadblock