WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Jared Golden of Maine’s 2nd District split with fellow House Democrats as they passed their own version of a coronavirus aid package on Thursday in a largely symbolic expression of frustration with protracted talks on a compromise.
On a party-line vote of 214-207, the House sent to the Senate a $2.2 trillion package that Republicans have lambasted as a costly “liberal wish list.” No House GOP lawmaker voted for it while 18 Democrats including Golden voted “no.” There were 10 Republican no-shows on final passage who could have flipped the outcome.
The Trump administration has offered about $1.5 trillion. But the divide between the two plans jumps to roughly $1 trillion once offsets are backed out of the equation, including what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said amounts to $265 billion in tax increases on well-off business owners that Republicans have rejected.
Senate Republicans want to spend even less: They chafed at a $1 trillion package over the summer, before backing a bill with just $650 billion in relief — more than half of it offset.
The House bill won’t become law, but Democratic leaders said they wanted to outline their negotiating priorities and show how $2.2 trillion could be put to effective use. The move also allows some politically vulnerable rank-and-file Democrats to register their support for a robust aid package before heading home to campaign.
“It’s really important for people to see that we completely identify with the concerns that they have and how we have allocated the resources necessary to get the job done,” Pelosi told reporters Thursday.
The Democratic bill, which was supported by Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine’s 1st District, provides another round of $1,200-per-adult tax rebates, expanded unemployment benefits, and more money for schools, health care and state and local governments, among many other things.
But it chops roughly a third of the cost off of a $3.4 trillion aid measure the House passed in May. Golden opposed that package in May, blaming party leaders for “expanding the scope of the legislation beyond core, urgent needs and insisting on the inclusion of a series of unrelated provisions.” He has recently urged Pelosi to negotiate a workable compromise.
State and local aid, for example, would be cut roughly in half from this Democratic plan relative to the last, from $916 billion to $436 billion. Democrats said most of the savings would be achieved by shortening the time period that would be covered by new aid.
But Democrats also pumped some additional money into new priorities since their May legislation. Chief among them is a $120 billion fund for the pandemic-battered restaurant industry, along with $28 billion for the airline industry, which is now preparing for mass layoffs in the absence of any additional relief.
The measure “seeks to meet Republicans halfway, while addressing needs that have grown since May,” said House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey, D-New York, in floor debate. But Lowey’s Republican counterpart, Kay Granger of Texas, said the bill is too costly and contains too many provisions that have little to do with the pandemic.
“It’s time for our leaders to come together, rather than take a vote on this damaging, partisan bill,” Granger said.
Story by David Lerman. BDN writer Michael Shepherd contributed to this report.