Lawmakers have only a few weeks to pass another discharge bill before the end of the year, and although a cross-party proposal may be a sign that there is still hope, it is unclear whether the spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi will approve the bill, as a number of points of the Heroes Act, which is led by Parliament, are missing.
A bipartisan aid package unveiled on Tuesday is supported by more than 50 lawmakers, one of the few bipartisan plans proposed since the CARES law was passed eight months ago. If passed, it would provide much-needed assistance to businesses and the unemployed whose critical benefits expire at the end of the month, and it would end months of stalemate between Democrats and Republicans.
At 908 billion dollars, that is more than a trillion dollars less than the updated Heroes Act of 2.2 trillion dollars that the House passed at party level in October, which means that Democrats will have to make concessions to get on board.
While the bipartisan bill, based on the draft legislation presented at the unveiling, remains to be drafted, Democrats must be prepared to forego another round of stimulus audits, census and campaign funds, money for the prison system, second chance grants and programs under the Violence Against Women’s Act, as well as a number of other provisions in the HEROES Act.
Washington Newsday asked speaker Pelosi to comment, but did not receive a response in time for publication.
A major sticking point for the Democrats was the provision of sufficient aid to state and local governments, which had additional expenditures and less revenue due to the pandemic. Republicans have pushed back the idea, calling it a “bailout” for poorly managed Democratic cities and states.
Legislators included $160 billion for state, local and tribal governments in the bipartisan package, $276 billion less than the Democrats had in the HEROES Act. The Democrats also included territories in their bill and allocated $9.5 billion to help them deal with the fiscal impact of the pandemic. Since the bipartisan bill has not yet been drafted, it is possible that the language will be changed to include territories.
Also, based on the proposed framework, there appears to be no funding for COVID-19 treatment, a provision that was included in the HEROES law. The Democratic bill included $103 billion for vaccine development and distribution, testing, and contact tracing and treatment. The current bipartisan plan provides $16 billion for vaccine development and distribution, testing and traceability. The framework did not explicitly include treatment.
The legislators who put the package together admitted that neither side of the aisle would be completely satisfied with the package. It does not contain everything that the Democrats had in their packages, and for the Republicans it is about $300 billion more than what many GOP members wanted to spend.
In the “spirit of compromise,” Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said they felt that the bipartisan framework should be used as a “basis for immediate bipartisan bipartisan negotiations. Democratic Party leaders plan to offer “improvements” and stressed the need for funding for the distribution of the vaccine and assistance to state and local governments to be charged with the implementation of the distribution effort.
They urged the majority leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, to come to the negotiating table, but it is unclear whether the two sides will be able to find common ground. The Republican Senate Speaker has pushed for a targeted aid package and rejected the bipartisan proposal with the words “We have no time to lose”.
Adding more of what the Democrats have included in the HEROES Act will probably only move McConnell and a few other Republicans further away from the bipartisan plan. Although legislators have come together to try to get a package through both chambers to the desk of President Donald Trump, it seems that the one thing on which Democratic and Republican leaders agree is that the other side is to blame for the Americans not getting the relief they need.