House To Vote On COVID-19 Aid Plan That The GOP Had Already Written Off

May 15, 2020
Originally published on May 17, 2020 11:17 pm
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The House is set to vote today on a $3 trillion coronavirus aid package. This legislation was written entirely by Democrats. The policies they're proposing would cost as much as the first four aid packages combined, and Republicans are not onboard. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the bill is aimed at helping those whose lives have been upended by the pandemic.

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NANCY PELOSI: We have a monumental need for our country at this sad time. You know the figures.

MARTIN: We've got NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell with us this morning. Hi, Kelsey.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hi there.

MARTIN: This is a huge piece of legislation, what's in it?

SNELL: Well, there are more direct payments to individuals like the ones that people may have seen up to $1,200, but these are expanded and they have - they're more generous. There are unemployment benefits through next January and federal support for rent, mortgages and child care. And on top of that, there's a long list of other priorities, including more money for testing, tracing and treatment, the three T's that Pelosi keeps talking about. But Republicans also point out that the bill mentions marijuana 68 times, and it would lift a cap on state and local tax deduction that would benefit the rich.

MARTIN: Right. So this bill was written entirely by Democrats, which makes the chances of passage very slim, frankly. Are there any proposals here that Republicans can support?

SNELL: Well, we should say that leadership Democrats in the House are fairly confident that it will pass there and we don't really know if Republicans support anything in this bill because they're basically dismissing it out of hand. They're calling it a liberal wish list. Now, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed it saying he doesn't understand why it took Democrats two months to write this bill.

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MITCH MCCONNELL: It still reads like the speaker of the House pasted together some random ideas from her most liberal members and slapped the word coronavirus on top of it.

SNELL: That is more or less how Republicans are talking about this bill, not really getting into the details of any of the proposals here, though the White House did put out a statement last night officially opposing the bill.

MARTIN: So this is a big shift from the past several bills, which were far more bipartisan. Republicans and Democrats mostly worked together.

SNELL: Yes, aside from some bickering over the details of how things got done and how quickly they got done, they did work together. But things have really deteriorated. President Trump and Speaker Pelosi haven't talked since October. And she has been in touch with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, but there are clearly strained relationships between Pelosi and the Democrats in the House and Republicans in the Senate and in the White House. You know, the big fight right now is about whether or not they should be putting a pause on the aid like Republicans want.

That's something that Mitch McConnell has talked about, it's something the president has talked about, but Democrats say they fear that stopping now could lead to a depression and that ultimately, that that would be more expensive than spending another $3 trillion. Pelosi is citing Fed chairman Jerome Powell, who's saying that Congress needs to do more. And he is supposed to testify next week before a Senate panel, a longtime - alongside Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. So we're going to see this tension on display coming up the next couple of days.

MARTIN: Just briefly on the business of the Hill. I mean, just how things are getting done. Republicans are criticizing the House for being out of session for so long, now they're coming back. How are things going to change?

SNELL: Oh gosh. This vote today is expected, basically, to take all day. There's going to be some debate in the morning, but the process they have to make sure that they're social distancing on the House floor means that it will take hours to vote on something like this. They're also planning to pass a proxy voting plan which would allow one member to vote for up to 10 other members so that not every member of the House of Representatives has to come to Washington to vote. And there are also efforts for - to allow remote voting in committee hearings, so it will be a big change in Congress.

MARTIN: All right. NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell. Thank you, Kelsey.

SNELL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.