Dear Neighbors and Friends,
Let me begin by saying that a COVID-19 diagnosis is an awful thing that far too many Americans have had to confront—including over 200,000 who have tragically died. I wish the first family and everyone at the White House who has been infected a full and swift recovery. Please, please, please — listen to the advice of medical experts, wear a mask, and follow CDC guidelines.
Last Thursday, House Democrats passed an updated version of the Heroes Act. Almost five months ago, we passed the original Heroes Act, which has been collecting dust on Mitch McConnell’s desk ever since. He said it was “too big.” That’s laughable given the scope and severity of this pandemic. And over the last five months of his inaction, millions of Americans have been laid off, millions more have fallen ill, and tens of thousands have tragically died. Again and again House Democrats have tried to negotiate with McConnell, including our latest offer to cut $1.2 trillion out of our original package.
Our negotiations with the Administration continue, and I am hopeful that we can get this done. However, we still have significant disagreement in some key areas, and I wanted to share an update from House leadership on the state of our negotiations around five policy priorities:
Unemployment Insurance – The GOP number does not measure up to the need that we both recognize, particularly as long-term unemployment rises and families are exhausting their benefits. This is separate from our disagreement over the dollar amount for the enhanced unemployment benefit.
Schools, and State and Local Funding – The September jobs report shows that 280,000 teachers and support staff have lost their jobs in the last month alone, with more than 800,000 fewer teachers and support staff employed compared to this time last year, overwhelmingly because of the coronavirus. We have no right to salute our heroic frontline health care workers, police, fire, sanitation, transit and teachers if we do not give them the state and local funding needed to prevent them from losing their jobs.
Children – Essential to the well-being of America’s working families is the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit. In the original Heroes Act, we allocated to $149 billion, which we have cut to $57 billion in the updated bill. The Republican proposal had zero. We are hopeful that the Administration will join us at our level for the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit and are awaiting a response. In terms of child care, we have $57 billion to their $25 billion, and are pushing them to come up to the higher level.
Testing & Tracing – Finally the Administration is coming closer to our number on the funds needed for the testing and tracing that science tells us is necessary to crush the virus. However we have not yet reached agreement on the language, which is critical to ensuring that the Administration uses these funds correctly to stop the spread of the virus.
Appropriations – Many of the priorities in the bill are addressed in the appropriation section, which we have reduced to $144 billion. The White House is suggesting cutting $44 billion more. We await the changes that they are suggesting.
Let me make one final observation — I’ve heard from pundits on the news that Democrats are passing “partisan bills” and that we should just “give in” and let the Republicans have whatever they want to get this done. Let’s be clear here.
First, House Democrats have compromised — again and again. We met Senator McConnell in the middle, and then he moved the goalposts. The American people put their faith in us and gave us a majority in the House to fight for their values, not to rubber stamp McConnell’s proposal which, quite frankly, is crumbs compared to the needs of our country right now.
Second, we passed a bill five months ago. Mitch McConnell sat on his hands before finally calculating that the situation had become so critical that he needed to open up discussion. His inaction resulted in untold damage to our country.
Nevertheless, we will continue to negotiate in good faith and I will keep you updated on the status of those negotiations.
Stay healthy and stay hopeful.
Member of Congress