House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday said she will not hold a vote on additional COVID-19 relief to extend expanded unemployment insurance payments that expired at the end of July, saying it would imperil negotiations with the White House on a broader pandemic deal.
The House is slated to vote on funding the U.S. Postal Service and preventing the federal government from implementing changes to the agency.
This week, more than 100 Democrats signed a letter to push Pelosi to schedule a vote on the same day on legislation to extend the $600-per-week unemployment benefits.
“That’s a very positive initiative. I have encouraged that, I have welcomed that suggestion,” Pelosi told “PBS NewsHour” on Thursday.
“I don’t think strategically it’s where we should go right now, because the Republicans would like to pass something like that and say forget about it,” Pelosi continued. “Forget about state and local [government funding], forget about our investments in stopping the virus, forget about other initiatives that feed the food insecure children in our country, vote by mail initiatives and the rest.”
In a letter to Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the Democrats said the extra benefits should be continued until the end of the pandemic.
“We owe it to people waiting to get back to work across the country not only to extend unemployment benefits to help them pay their bills, but to tie these benefits to economic conditions so workers are not held hostage by another cliff like this one,” the representatives wrote to their leadership. The measure was led by Democratic Reps. Scott Peters of California, Don Beyer of Virginia, and Derek Kilmer of Washington state.
But in rejecting their initiative, Pelosi told PBS that if the House were to pass a standalone unemployment bill, Senate Republicans could amend it.
“We must consider their timing and strategic value. They cannot come at the expense of addressing the priorities of the Heroes Act—particularly support for our heroes in state and local government and education, who are in crisis,” Pelosi wrote in a separate letter. She is referring to the $3.4 trillion HEROES Act that was passed by Democrats in the House in May. Republicans rejected the bill, calling it a “socialist manifesto” that contains too many provisions unrelated to the pandemic or economic relief.
In response, Republicans in the Senate unveiled the $1 trillion HEALS Act. But after two weeks of negotiations, talks stalled earlier in August between top Democrats and White House officials.
Pelosi later said that Democrats are willing to cut their bill in half to come to a deal with Republicans.
“We have to try to come to that agreement now,” Pelosi said in an interview with Politico. “We’re willing to cut our bill in half to meet the needs right now. We’ll take it up again in January. We’ll see them again in January. But for now, we can cut the bill in half.”
The HEALS Act and HEROES Act are both attempts to offset economic damage caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic.