House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Democrat from Maryland, speaks while participating in a signing ceremony of H.R. 266, The Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, in the Rayburn Room of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, April 23, 2020.
Sarah Silbiger | Bloomberg | Getty Images
The House will not vote on its next coronavirus relief plan before Friday, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Monday.
Democratic leaders have worked to cement their next bill to try to rescue an economy and health-care system battered by the pandemic. The office of Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, told representatives “that pending introduction of legislation, it is possible that the House may meet this week, no earlier than Friday.”
Democrats and Republicans are also discussing a rules change that would make it easier for lawmakers who are not physically in the Capitol to vote on legislation. Late last month, Democrats canceled a planned vote to allow representatives to vote by proxy, instead setting up a bipartisan task force to consider the issue.
Hoyer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have pushed for additional funding to combat the outbreak as U.S. unemployment soars to levels unseen since the Great Depression and states move to reboot their economies despite inadequate Covid-19 testing infrastructures. Pelosi has called for the legislation, which reportedly could near the $2 trillion in spending in the emergency package passed in March, to include money for state and local governments, funding for testing and another direct payment to Americans, among other possible provisions.
However, Republicans in the Senate and White House have downplayed the need to spend more taxpayer money now to curb the damage from the pandemic. Last week, White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow said he did not expect formal talks between the Trump administration and Congress to restart until late May or early June.
However, Kudlow said Sunday that the White House is still holding “informal” talks with lawmakers.
Potential sticking points include $500 billion or more in relief for states and municipalities — which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has criticized — and liability protections for businesses reopening their doors, which the GOP backs but Democrats oppose.
If the House passes a Democratic-written relief bill, it is unlikely to get through the Republican-held Senate.
The pandemic has now led to nearly 80,000 deaths in the U.S., according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. jobs report Friday showed the economy lost more than 20 million jobs in April as businesses shuttered to slow the pandemic’s spread.