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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on May 27, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Amid Growing Economic Misery, Not One House Republican Voted for Bill to Boost Unemployment Benefits, Send Another Round of Checks

Following passage of the House bill, one advocate said "it is past time for Senate Republicans to move to help the American people instead of focusing on trying to ram through the confirmation of another Supreme Court Justice."

Jake Johnson

Without the support of a single Republican representative, the Democrat-controlled House on Thursday approved a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill that would revive the $600-per-week federal unemployment boost the GOP allowed to expire in July, send another round of $1,200 stimulus checks to most Americans, and provide much-needed aid to state and local governments.

Unveiled earlier this week as a compromise version of the $3.4 trillion HEROES Act the House approved in May, the new legislation passed Thursday evening by a vote of 214-207, with 188 Republicans joining 18 Democrats and Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.) in voting no. (The full roll call will be linked when available.)

"To date, Mitch McConnell and his caucus have refused to help working people and our struggling communities. They should, without delay, take up and pass this new bill."
—Lee Saunders, AFSCME

The bill's passage came after relief negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin faltered once again as the two sides reportedly remain apart on key issues, including unemployment insurance and relief to state and local governments that have already laid off millions of public employees due to budget shortfalls.

Earlier Thursday, figures released by the departments of Commerce and Labor showed that the pandemic-induced economic collapse—already the most unequal in modern U.S. history—is nowhere near over as mass layoffs continue at an unprecedented rate and personal incomes fall due to the expiration of federal unemployment benefits.

But even in the face of dire economic circumstances, not one House Republican was moved to vote for Democrats' compromise relief legislation, which Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) rejected as "nothing more than Speaker Pelosi's radical left-wing wish list."

In a statement following Thursday's vote, House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said that "the health and economic catastrophe facing our country continues to cry out for urgent action."

"The American people cannot afford to wait until next year for action, so House Democrats are making good on our offer to compromise," said Lowey. "As negotiations continue, this updated version of the HEROES Act is a strong bill that meets the needs of the American people."

With the November election just a month away, the relief legislation now heads to the Senate, but it remains to be seen whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)—who earlier this week dismissed the relief bill as a "political stunt"—will allow a vote on the measure. The Senate adjourned late Thursday afternoon and is not expected to return until Monday, when McConnell is planning to move ahead with more of Trump's lifetime judicial appointments.

Lee Saunders, president of the 1.3 million-member American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), said late Thursday that even though the revised version of the HEROES Act "doesn't include everything we believe is necessary, it represents another good faith effort to work across the aisle to ensure that millions of Americans get the economic lifeline they desperately need."

"Speaker Pelosi was willing to compromise; now it's time for the White House and Senate Republicans to show some leadership," said Saunders. "To date, Mitch McConnell and his caucus have refused to help working people and our struggling communities. They should, without delay, take up and pass this new bill."

Common Cause president Karen Hobert Flynn echoed Saunders, saying in a statement that "it is past time for Senate Republicans to move to help the American people instead of focusing on trying to ram through the confirmation of another Supreme Court justice while ignoring the plight of their constituents."

"The House has acted once to provide that relief," said Flynn. "The nation will be watching the Senate closely. And in a month's time, more citizens will have the opportunity to go to the polls and let their elected officials know whether or not they approve of how the Senate has handled this crisis."

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