Republicans flatly rejected a more than 1,800-page coronavirus package from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying the $3 trillion HEROES Act is a transparently unserious wishlist.
The bill is likely to pass the House on Friday and although Democratic leaders insist Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) must allow a vote, some Democrats admit the bill’s simply an opening volley in negotiations.
“This really is an exercise in legislative futility,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who managed morning House floor debate for Republicans. “As a package, it’s going nowhere.”
“It would make more to sense in my view, Madam Speaker, to send it straight to Santa Claus,” Cole quipped.
Republicans object to the bill leaving out wording from the Hyde Amendment, which they say could allow for federal funding of abortions. A different section removes a work requirement for food stamps, while another adds protection against deportation for certain illegal immigrants, Republicans say.
“Any time they start adding in attempts to provide federal funding for abortions in a COVID-19 response, we know they’re not serious,” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) told The Post.
In a reflection of the wide-ranging priorities incorporated in the package, the bill would clarify that banks can work with state-legal cannabis businesses — a long-stalled reform backed by members of both parties.
The futility of the Democratic bill was manifest in the disinterest of journalists. Hardly any were perched above the House floor during debate on Friday.
And during morning debate on both the bill and a different resolution to allow for proxy voting, Republicans focused most of their scorn on possibly allowing members to vote for one another during the pandemic.
Republicans said the proxy voting change centralizes power with party bosses and sets the wrong tone when workers across the US are returning to work.
“We are setting a terrible example” said Rep. Debbie Lasko (R-Ariz.).
Lasko offered her thoughts on the coronavirus legislation, too. She dubbed the $3 trillion package “the Keep People Unemployed Act,” saying she opposes a measure that would expand a $600-per-week boost in unemployment insurance pay until January.
The bill includes almost $1 trillion in funding for state and local governments, which Republicans including President Trump are wary of granting. It would authorize another round of direct checks up to $1,200, create a $200 billion “heroes fund” giving hazard pay to medical workers, allocate $175 billion to rent and mortgage aid and spend $75 billion on virus testing and contact tracing.
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said he was perplexed by Republicans pumping the brakes.
“It’s like we’re living in the Twilight Zone. We are at the beginning of this pandemic, Madam Speaker, not the end,” he said.
Only one Republican — Rep. Peter King of New York — has said he will support the HEROES Act. Moderate and left-wing Democrats also may revolt. The Congressional Progressive Caucus, whose members wanted a bigger bill, unsuccessfully implored Pelosi to delay the vote. Rep. Kendra Horn (D-Okla.), a member of the centrist Blue Dog Coalition, said she will vote “no.”
McConnell, meanwhile, said Democrats are slowing the process of negotiations on a fifth major coronavirus bill. Negotiations on a prior bill, the $2 trillion CARES Act, broke down in March, he recalled, after Pelosi proposed a rival bill that Republicans said was stuffed with extraneous provisions.
“While we finalized the CARES Act, the House parachuted in with miscellaneous liberal demands completely unrelated to COVID-19 — solar energy tax credits, airline admissions,” McConnell said.