Democrats unveil scaled-down $2.2T coronavirus relief package

House Democrats on Monday unveiled a scaled-back $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package, a last-ditch effort to pressure White House negotiators to come back to the table and strike a bipartisan deal before the election.

This pared-down HEROES Act — $1.2 trillion less than the original bill passed by the House last spring — includes $436 billion in emergency aid for state and local governments; $225 billion for schools and child care; an additional round of $1,200 stimulus checks for most Americans; money to restore $600 expanded unemployment payments through January; $75 billion for testing, contact tracing and other health care efforts; billions for housing assistance; and funding to shore up the census, U.S. Postal Service and elections.    

HEROES Act 2.0 also includes a key provision backed by President Trump and his GOP allies: $25 billion to stave off thousands of layoffs at passenger airlines, as well as $3 billion for airline contractors. The beleaguered restaurant industry would receive $120 billion in aid under the Democratic plan. 

Democrats rolled out the new package just minutes before Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) spoke by phone with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the top White House negotiator. The two agreed to speak again on Tuesday, an aide said.

Democrats facing tough reelections have for weeks been pressing Pelosi to hold another vote on a COVID-19 package to demonstrate to their constituents that they are fighting to secure more relief. Pelosi had been resistant to that strategy, saying the House had already passed the $3.4 trillion package in May. But she reversed course last week, directing her committee chairmen to begin drafting the new version.

In a letter to colleagues Monday night, Pelosi did not indicate whether the House would vote on the new package. But Democratic lawmakers and aides said, barring a last-minute agreement with Mnuchin, they anticipated a vote on the legislation on Wednesday or Thursday, before lawmakers depart Washington and turn their focus to the campaign trail.

“This evening, Democrats are unveiling an updated Heroes Act that serves as our proffer to Republicans to come to negotiations to address the health and economic catastrophe in our country,” Pelosi wrote in her letter to colleagues. 

She explained that Democrats were able to cut the price tag of the package by shortening the time it covers rather than reducing funding for programs.

“Democrats are making good on our promise to compromise with this updated bill, which is necessary to address the immediate health and economic crisis facing America’s working families right now,” she said. “We have been able to make critical additions and reduce the cost of the bill by shortening the time covered for now.”

In an appearance on MSNBC earlier, Pelosi said she had spoken to Mnuchin over the weekend, insisting that the White House would need to meet her halfway after Democrats came down more than $1 trillion from their original offer.

“I think we can find our common ground … but he has to come back with much more money to get the job done,” Pelosi told Andrea Mitchell. “So, I’m hopeful. I’m optimistic.”

—Updated at 8:12 p.m.

Tags CARES Act Coronavirus coronavirus relief coronavirus stimulus Donald Trump Heroes Act MSNBC Nancy Pelosi Steven Mnuchin U.S. Postal Service
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