House Democrats introduce $2.5 trillion coronavirus bill
House Democrats late Monday released a $2.5 trillion, 1,404-page phase three coronavirus bill.
The bill was released as the Senate has been unable to reach agreement on a bill. The Senate Republicans released a bill that did not involve consultation with the Democrats, but have since made some compromises. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., have been engaged in negotiations all day.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a news release, “The Senate Republicans’ bill, as presented, put corporations first, not workers and families. Today, House Democrats will unveil a bill that takes responsibility for the health, wages and well-being of America’s workers: the Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act.”
But Pelosi’s statement raised questions about whether she actually expects to bring the bill to the House floor for a vote and go to conference with the Senate, or whether she wants to influence the Senate bill. In her release, Pelosi added, “I am grateful to our committee chairs and members for their extraordinary work for America’s workers and families. Because of the Senate Democrats, progress has been made. We urge the Senate to move closer to the values in the Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act.”
The House is out of session and Pelosi would have to call members back to Washington unless a phase three bill is passed by unanimous consent.
The bill begins by providing additional money for the operation of each federal agency, including the Agriculture Department.
A one-page summary of the bill notes that it “expands and funds additional Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs benefits, helping to ensure that families will be able to afford to eat during the coronavirus pandemic.”
A more detailed summary notes that the bill includes funds for farm loan servicing, an increase in loan authority for rural business loans, special assistance to dairy farmers and purchases of perishable products. It also includes more money for long distance learning and telehealth. But it does not mention more funding for the Agriculture Department’s Commodity Credit Corporation, which the Trump administration has used to provide trade aid to farmers and which Senate Republicans have included so that payments can be made to livestock producers.
The Senate bill does provide funding for the CCC, but Republican senators complained today that Democrats are balking at the inclusion of the provision. Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Hoeven, R-N.D., led a colloquy on the Senate floor today on the agriculture provisions in the Senate bill.
On page 43 of the summary, the agriculture section provisions would make a number of changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, including increasing the minimum benefit, stopping the Trump administration from implementing several rules that would restrict access to SNAP and allowing beneficiaries to buy hot food during the coronavirus crisis.
The legislation was introduced by House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., and co-sponsored by House Administration Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif.; Education and Labor Committee Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, D-Va.; Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J.; Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif.; Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.; Small Business Committee Chairwoman Nydia Velázquez, D-N.Y.; Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio, D-Ore.; and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal, D-Mass.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., is not listed as a co-sponsor.
The Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act builds on H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, enacted into law on March 18, and on the $8.3 billion emergency spending package enacted into law on March 6.
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