President-elect Joe Biden called on Congress to pass a stimulus bill in its lame-duck session, one that is similar in size and scope to legislation the Democratic-controlled House originally passed in May.
“Right now Congress should come together and pass a COVID relief package like the HEROES Act that the House passed six months ago,” Biden said at a press conference on Monday. “Once we shut down the virus and deliver economic meat to workers and businesses, then we can start to build back better than before.”
Two versions of the HEROES Act have passed the House. The most recent $2.2 trillion version of the bill was passed in October and an earlier $3.4 trillion version was passed in May. Both were held up in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Stimulus talks stalled before the election and the two parties have not returned to negotiating a stimulus package. The two parties came close on the deal’s price tag with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) latest $2.2 trillion proposal and the White House’s “almost $1.9 trillion” proposal.
There are reports that the White House has left the stimulus negotiations, even as President Donald Trump recently called for a deal to be done in the lame-duck session.
“Congress must now do a Covid Relief Bill. Needs Democrats support,” he said in a tweet on Saturday. “Make it big and focused. Get it done!”
If a deal is not reached by the end of the year, more relief provisions will expire, leaving Americans with limited government support this winter. Up to 15 million Americans are expected to lose unemployment benefits coverage when the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) programs expire.
‘Something smaller [...] is more appropriate’
While the president and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin — who had been leading the White House side of the negotiations before the election — offered up to $1.9 trillion for a deal, Senate Republicans who are now likely leading the talks support something much smaller.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) latest proposal was worth just $500 billion, opening up a huge gap between the two parties on funding.
“Our economy is really moving to get back on its feet,” McConnell told reporters in Kentucky last week. “That, I think, clearly ought to affect what size of any rescue package we additionally do. Something smaller, rather than throwing another $3 trillion at this issue, is more appropriate.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said that McConnell “sticking to his emaciated bill” is a “non-starter,” especially given that the bill was rejected twice in the GOP-controlled Senate. Schumer and Pelosi said their latest $2.2 trillion HEROES Act should be the starting point.
"The biggest change since Election Day is that Donald Trump, who is not for helping us in COVID and who is against the HEROES bill, has lost,” Schumer told reporters last week. “That was an overwhelming referendum by the American people.”