May 10, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Inside House Democrats' whopping $1.2 trillion+ coronavirus relief proposal

Speaker Nancy Pelosi  walks to her office after her weekly press conference.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi walks to her office after her weekly press conference. Photo: Michael Brochstein/Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

House Democrats could bring their phase 4 coronavirus relief package (CARES 2) to the floor for a vote as early as this week — but, for now at least, it's going nowhere.

The state of play: Democrats have crafted a $1.2 trillion+ package without input from the White House or Hill Republicans, congressional aides familiar with their plans tell Axios.

  • GOP leadership says it's still waiting for billions of aid allocated in the first $2.2 trillion CARES Act to go out the door.
  • The White House says it wants to evaluate the economic impact of reopening before passing another large stimulus package.

But House Democrats see the proposal as a way to lay down a marker of their priorities and prod congressional Republicans and the White House toward more economic relief for individuals, state and local governments, and the U.S. Postal Service.

  • Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her caucus also want to show voters that they're still working, despite members remaining in their districts.
  • Those optics could be important politically given the Senate's decision to return to Washington last week. (House Republicans have been chiding Democrats for staying home in their districts when, they say, they should be at work.)

Details: The legislation, which is still being drafted and is subject to change, is expected to include:

  • Roughly $1 trillion for state and local governments. They want to split this money into separate revenue streams to ensure each community can access it.
  • More money for hospitals and COVID-19 testing.
  • Roughly $25 billion to keep the U.S. Postal Service afloat.
  • Expanded nutritional benefits, Medicaid funding and unemployment insurance (which they call “paycheck guarantee”).
  • Another round of direct payments to Americans.

House leadership is also working on narrowing down the guidelines for how these funds are allocated to ensure that people aren't "double dipping" into the different pots of money, a senior Democratic aide told Axios.

  • For example, they do not want someone who is receiving more unemployment money to also receive money through the Paycheck Protection Program. However, it’s still unclear whether the PPP fund will be replenished.
  • "We're trying to limit the amount of overlap so people aren't abusing the system," the aide said.

The package will not include liability protection for businesses, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said is a top priority for Republicans.

  • It also will not include a payroll tax cut, something President Trump has insisted on.
  • House Democrats have said both of these proposals are nonstarters.

The backdrop: This comes as the pandemic continues to choke the U.S. economy — which shed 20.5 million jobs in April as unemployment hit 14.7%.

Go deeper: The coronavirus is outlasting the stimulus

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