It has been more than a week since Senate Republicans introduced their stimulus package proposal, the HEALS Act, and several months since the first relief bill was signed into law. With the nation still in the grips of the coronavirus pandemic, and tens of millions of people still out of work, what exactly is taking so long for Congress to pass further aid, including the second round of stimulus checks?
Much of the delay simply has to do with a difference of opinions. Democrats and Republicans hold wildly differing viewpoints on what should and should not be included in what could be the final relief bill. This much is evident by the two different bills that have been proposed: the Democratic backed HEROES Act and the GOP's HEALS Act.
Introduced and approved by the House of Representatives in May, the HEROES Act has a $3 trillion price tag and seeks to offer a second round of stimulus payments, extend the recently expired $600 weekly unemployment benefit, and pay out $175 billion in rent and mortgage assistance. That legislation was largely considered a "$3 trillion left wing wish list" by Republicans and was never taken up by the Senate, though many of the provisions included in it are things that Democrats have remained steadfast on, demanding they be included in the next aid package.
The HEALS Act, meanwhile, is much more conservative. With Republicans wishing to keep the next package at or below the $1 trillion mark, the legislation includes a second round of stimulus payments, though it seeks to cut unemployment benefits from $600 to $200 before eventually only being 70% of a person’s wages. It also included a number of other controversial measures, such as $1.75 billion for a new FBI building, $377 million for a West Wing renovation, and $8 billion for military weaponry, things that are facing opposition even from Republicans.
Due to these conflicting viewpoints, negotiations have largely remained deadlocked. Some Democrats have called for the HEROES Act to be brought to the Senate floor for a vote, something that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to do. Complicating things, as Forbes reports, is the fact that the House of Representatives ended its session on Friday, July 31 and the Senate's last day on Capitol Hill is this upcoming Friday. The next session for both chambers won’t start until Sept. 8. As negotiations remain deadlocked, lawmakers are scrambling to determine how debate and voting would work in the House during recess.