U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, March 5, 2020.
Sarah Silbiger | Bloomberg | Getty Images
House Democrats will introduce a sprawling plan to blunt the economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic as efforts to pass a bill in the Senate hit roadblocks Monday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said her caucus would unveil legislation Monday “that takes responsibility for the health, wages and well-being of America’s workers.” It would include, according to a statement from the California Democrat:
- Requirements that corporations getting bailout money shield workers’ wages and benefits, and limits on CEO compensation, stock buybacks and layoffs.
- Direct payments to Americans, along with expanded paid family and medical leave.
- Grants and loans to small businesses.
- Strengthened unemployment insurance.
- Increased funding for hospitals and tougher safety standards for health-care workers.
- Language urging President Donald Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act to manufacture more health-care supplies.
- $40 billion in funding for schools and universities along with student debt relief.
- More funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and other food assistance programs.
- State election grants and a national requirement for 15 days of early voting and no-excuse absentee voting as fears grow about coronavirus spreading at crowded polling sites.
The legislation may serve more as a statement of principles for Democrats: Senate Republicans already supported a law to expand paid leave and unemployment insurance that originated with Democrats over the objections of many GOP members. Still, it underscores the gulf between the professed priorities of both parties as workers and companies desperately seek relief.
The Pelosi legislation appears to have many of the same goals as the Senate plan, but it remains to be seen how differently the packages are structured.
Congress has rushed to approve a relief plan as the global pandemic overwhelms health-care resources, wreaks havoc on the U.S. economy and forces widespread layoffs. Compounding the urgency, two House members and one senator have tested positive for COVID-19, forcing other lawmakers to quarantine and consider the prospect of voting remotely.
After they blocked a vote on Sunday to move forward with the Senate Republican plan, Democrats have said the package does too much to lift up corporations damaged by the outbreak without going far enough to help the workers. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer continues to negotiate with the Trump administration as he tries to iron out disagreements, including oversight of Treasury Department relief to businesses and how much to strengthen unemployment insurance.
Schumer said Monday that the sides are “very close” to reaching a deal. Democrats blocked the Senate GOP plan for a second time on Monday afternoon.
In unusually fiery remarks Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell accused Democrats of playing politics while the economy reels and health-care workers sacrifice their own safety.
The stimulus package, with a price tag expected to easily top $1.5 trillion, would be the third coronavirus relief plan passed by Congress. Lawmakers may need to take even more action as the outbreak spreads, schools and businesses across the country shut down and hospitals and states express an urgent need for supplies.
The outbreak continues to spread in the U.S., as more than 35,000 Americans have tested positive for the disease and at least 470 people have died from it, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.