Hoyer: House to vote on aid bill including food assistance Friday
The House of Representatives will vote Friday on a coronavirus aid bill that will include food assistance, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters by telephone today.
Hoyer said that the bill should be finished by early afternoon today and that he will notify members that the vote will take place Friday.
Hoyer said the bill will contain “food assistance” provisions but did not go into details. He cited the “tragedy” of long lines at food banks as a reason for increasing food assistance.
Anti-hunger activists have asked for a 15% increase in benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and other provisions to boost benefits.
Hoyer said the bill would contain aid to state and local governments, unemployment assistance, expanded testing, aid to students, funding for elections, the U.S. Postal Service and rental and mortgage assistance.
States and localities should not have to lay off essential personnel, he said.
Republicans including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., “have not felt the urgency of acting immediately,” Hoyer said, but “millions of Americans” see the urgency. He said he believes that because of the procedures the leadership put in place, members of the House can return safely to do the work on which the American people are dependent. The District of Columbia remains under stay-at-home orders because the incidence of COVID-19 continues to rise.
There will also be a separate bill on the operation of a virtual Congress, but so far there is not agreement between the Democrats and Republicans on that, he said. Virtual operation of the Congress would include the ability of committees to meet virtually and mark up bills to reach the House floor. Hoyer said the plan would be careful to make sure the technology can work without disadvantaging either party.
Hoyer noted that the House Rules Committee has announced it will meet at Thursday in Room 1100 of the Longworth House Office Building on both the coronavirus aid package and on a bill that would allow remote voting by proxy in the House and provide for official remote committee proceedings during a public health emergency.
Meanwhile, Republicans continue to resist quick action on another coronavirus aid bill.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said he believes the Senate will not take up a bill for “two or three weeks at the most” because members want to see if the previous aid packages are working and they want “a little more certainty” on how much more aid is needed, particularly for states and localities.
McConnell said on the Senate floor early today, “We’re hearing that House Democrats are cobbling together a big laundry list of pet priorities. Even the media is describing it as a partisan wish list with no chance – no chance of becoming law.”
McConnell continued, “The American people don’t need a far-left transformation. They just need a path back to [the] historically prosperous and optimistic moment that they had built for themselves until about 12 weeks ago.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said early today, “It breaks your heart to see people waiting for hours in their cars to line up at food banks, and when they are interviewed by the press they are people who never went to a food bank before. That’s how deep and troubling this crisis is being.”
Schumer continued, “The Constitution instructs us to provide for the common welfare, but at this critical juncture in our nation’s history the Republican leadership, led by Leader McConnell, is ducking their responsibility, plain and simple. … President Hoover lacked the urgency to get the federal government involved at the outset of the Great Depression. Every history book teaches us that his era prolonged and likely deepened the suffering of American workers. When Republican leaders look at unemployment numbers and say we don’t need to act immediately, that government’s done enough already, they are the latter-day Herbert Hoovers, and I fear it could lead to similar results. A deeper and longer recession and – God forbid, but not out of the question – a second Great Depression because of the inaction and incompetence of the president being followed obediently, wrongly by the Republican senators.”
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