House Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated on Thursday that Democrats will draft a new coronavirus relief bill and look to bring it for a vote before October 2, when the House is scheduled to recess. Pelosi has designated Richard Neal, who heads the Ways and Means Committee, to lead the new effort. Neal estimated that the new package will be in the range of $2.2 trillion, according to The Hill. “The Ways and Means Committee wrote most of it to begin with. So we’re just going to revisit a lot of it,” Neal said.
The potential $2.2 trillion bill would be lower than the $3.4 trillion HEROES Act, which the House passed in May, but is roughly in line with what Pelosi had previously offered to Republicans, futilely trying to convince them to come up from the $1 trillion HEALS Act the Senate had proposed. “We are still striving for an agreement,” Pelosi told her leadership team, according to Politico. “If necessary, we can formalize the request by voting on it on the House floor.”
The new bill comes as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Pelosi have agreed to restart talks about a second stimulus bill. “I’ve probably spoken to Speaker Pelosi 15 or 20 times in the last few days on the CR [continuing resolution],” Mnuchin told the Senate Banking Committee, “and we’ve agreed to continue to have discussions about the CARES Act.”
Negotiations have stalled for months. Republicans delayed releasing a proposal following passage of the House’s HEROES Act. Their original plan, the HEALS Act, did not even make it to the Senate floor for a vote as various factions balked at the bill, including fiscal conservatives worried about adding to the national debt. More recently, Senate Republicans unveiled a so-called “skinny” bill that helped to coalesce Republicans, but brought their $1 trillion proposal down to $300 – $500 billion. Democrats dismissed the skinny bill, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer calling it an “emaciated Republican COVID proposal” that “fails to meet the needs of the American people.” The bill garnered 52 votes, but failed to advance in the Senate.
It is unclear what provisions the new Democratic stimulus bill would contain, but if it comes in at the roughly $2.2 trillion estimate, it will likely receive a lukewarm reception from Republicans. Early reads indicate that the package will include stimulus checks, small business aid, funding for cities and states, as well as additional unemployment and rental assistance, according to The Washington Post.
The new bill may help by making another proposal, announced by the Problem Solvers Caucus, more palatable for both sides. The bipartisan group of House members had recently unveiled a $1.5 trillion stimulus package meant to break the protracted negotiations stalemate. That proposal received support from the White House, with Mark Meadows indicating that it was higher than Republicans prefer, it was “not a showstopper at this point.”
The renewed energy around passing a bill comes amid growing outcry from representatives about the negotiations impasse and failure to pass additional aid for millions of Americans. “I’d be very uncomfortable going home without sending more relief to my constituents, for small businesses or parents with children who are trying to go to school or state and local governments, the Post Office needs help, frontline workers need help,” Representative Madeline Dean (D-Pa.) told The Hill. Another representative, Derek Kilmer echoes Dean’s sentiments saying, “a lot of our members are eager to have the House move forward on something that can help our constituents.”
For Democrats, there may be upside in merely signaling an updated desire to help and putting the pressure back on Republicans. “It should send a signal to the public as to where we are, and it’s more recent than [the HEROES Act],” said Representative Pete Aguilar.
Ultimately, even if the House passed a new stimulus package, it will still require negotiation with Republicans to agree to a bipartisan proposal that both the House and the Senate could advance. While the renewed activity is promising, there is also the potential for negotiations to stall again, depriving millions of Americans and small businesses from receiving additional relief.