The U.S. House has passed a smaller version of a follow-up federal aid plan for the coronavirus pandemic.
But a divided Congress appears no closer to an agreement, despite the 214-207 vote on Thursday, Oct. 1, to pass a $2.2 trillion plan (HR 925). It is less than the original $3.4 trillion HEROES Act (HR 6800), which the House passed back on May 15.
The Republican majority in the Senate failed to advance a $500 billion plan on a procedural vote Sept. 10.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the chief negotiator for the administration of President Donald Trump, has put forth a counteroffer of $1.62 trillion. That's still more than the $1 trillion many Senate Republicans see as the highest they are willing to consider.
It is uncertain whether Congress and the administration will come to an agreement before the Nov. 3 election. The House is in recess, but on a 24-hour travel notice. The Senate is scheduled to take an election recess after this week, but that may hinge on how quickly Republicans advance the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to committee and chamber votes before the election.
Much of the aid in the $2 trillion CARES Act, signed March 27, has been spent.
The latest House plan proposes a second round of $1,200 stimulus checks to individuals, a resumption of extra $600-per-week unemployment benefits and refinements to the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses. The plan does cut in half $900 billion in aid to states, but it's still more than Mnuchin or Senate Republicans want.
Oregon's four House Democrats voted yes, and Greg Walden, the lone Republican, voted no.
Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, a Democrat from Beaverton, issued this statement after the House vote:
"The House passed critical legislation several months ago to stem the loss of life and blunt the worst effects of the pandemic, but the Senate failed to act. This update to the Heroes Act reflects what our country needs now — aid for schools, workers, businesses, childcare, testing and treatment, and more.
"Oregonians are struggling with record levels of unemployment and financial hardship. Importantly, this update to the Heroes Act includes a second round of $1,200 direct payments and an extension of enhanced unemployment insurance benefits to put money in the pockets of families and individuals. It also includes funding I fought for to help working families pay for electricity bills and housing, support for our seniors, enhanced testing and tracing resources and improvements to the Paycheck Protection Program to aid small businesses. Saving our childcare system and making it more accessible is also essential to our recovery.
"I'm grateful this update includes the strong investment I advocated for that will help working families and early childhood educators. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to immediately pass this relief package. Our communities cannot wait any longer."
The revised House plan also attaches a $120 billion program of aid to restaurants championed by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Portland. The aid is available to businesses with 20 or fewer locations that are not publicly traded.
Blumenauer issued this statement after the House vote:
"What started as a local Portland effort to save our beloved food establishments has turned into a national movement that has now passed the U.S. House of Representatives.
"Local, independent restaurants are the cornerstone of communities large and small, and it's hard to imagine what life would be like without those vital institutions. Restaurants are not only where people come together, but they also provide a disproportionate avenue of economic success for minorities, immigrants and women. We're doing everything we can to ensure that the Senate joins us in quickly approving this critical relief to local, independent restaurants and their workers."
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