House Democrats Balk at Rubber Stamping Senate’s Virus Bill
Some House Democrats are balking at Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s suggestion that they should quickly accept a roughly $2 trillion Senate coronavirus relief package without debate or a chance to amend its contents.
Pelosi said Tuesday the House could approve the Senate’s stimulus bill by unanimous consent — a procedure that would let the chamber to pass legislation without calling members back to Washington. But there was resistance to this strategy from several Democrats across the ideological spectrum when Pelosi raised the possibility on a conference call Tuesday, according to a person on the call.
Unanimous consent in the House on a Senate-passed bill would be the quickest way to send the measure to President Donald Trump to sign into law and get federal aid to the individuals, businesses and health care facilities affected by the global health crisis.
Most House members left Washington more than a week ago, even as the Senate was in session to negotiate the massive stimulus bill.
Allowing the legislation to pass without objection would also prevent the need for members of Congress to travel from all across the country, including areas that have high rates of infection. Two House members and one senator have tested positive for Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
When Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told House Democrats on Tuesday’s call they wanted members to pass the bill unanimously — and essentially in absentia — several progressives said they wanted more time to study its contents, ask questions, and potentially make changes. Another member questioned how they could approve a historically costly bill without being present to actually vote, according to the person on the call.
The objections didn’t come from just progressive members. Representative Stephanie Murphy, a Florida Democrat who leads the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition of 25 lawmakers, said her members are unhappy as well. She criticized the lack of oversight in the initial GOP Senate draft of the bill, as well as the subsequent negotiations that included “a wish list of partisan policies that have nothing to do with the pandemic.”
“Leadership of both parties must stop with the partisan games,” Murphy said in a statement.
Pelosi on Monday introduced an even larger stimulus package, worth about $2.5 trillion, that included Democratic priorities like a requirement for companies receiving federal aid to implement a $15 minimum wage, corporate board diversity and a stricter executive to worker pay ratio. Republicans criticized the proposal and called it a Democratic wish list with provisions unrelated to the coronavirus, including tax credits for wind and solar energy.
Senate Republicans did make some concessions to Democrats in the negotiations on the Senate version of the bill, which will be Congress‘s the third coronavirus-related measure. But the changes didn’t incorporate all of House Democrats’ counterproposal.
Democratic leaders are seeking to calm some objections within the party by telling members that after passage of this bill, there will be a fourth and even fifth follow-up coronavirus package to address additional concerns.
House Republican leaders also are trying to convince their members to allow the Senate bill to advance without objections. Chief House GOP vote-counter Steve Scalise and his whip team spoke Tuesday with rank-and-file Republicans to urge them to accept this strategy as the quickest way to get help to struggling Americans.
“Whip Scalise emphasized that time is of the essence, and that our best position is to accept the Senate bill,” Lauren Fine, a spokeswoman for Scalise, said in a statement.
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