3 reactions to House Democrats’ $3T coronavirus relief bill

U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., gestures as she talks optimistically about Democrats' chances in down-ticket races in 2016, during her weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington January 7, 2016.
U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., gestures as she talks optimistically about Democrats' chances in down-ticket races in 2016, during her weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington January 7, 2016. | Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

The House of Representatives on Friday evening narrowly approved a $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill, the largest-ever in the history of the House, which Republican leaders say will be blocked in the Senate. Here are three mixed reactions to the bill by heads of Christian nonprofits and congressional leaders.

The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, dubbed as HEROES Act, passed by a 208-199 vote amid a veto threat from the White House, with 14 Democrats voting “no” against the party line and one Republican, Rep. Pete King of New York, voting “yes."

“I’m thrilled,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, said. “I’m so proud of my members. They just did something so monumental for the American people — for their health, for their lives, for their livelihood, and for our democracy. We couldn’t be more thrilled.”

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It includes $915 billion in state and local aid to help prevent layoffs of public workers, a new $200 billion “heroes” fund for hazard pay for essential workers, $100 billion for K-12 and higher education, and $75 billion for coronavirus testing.

The Democrats' plan would also allow for college students, non-child dependents, and immigrants who are in the country illegally to receive $1,200 each and $500 per child, which they were not eligible for in the previous CARES Act relief bill. 

Politico Playbook described the 1,815-page package drafted by Democrats alone as a "messaging bill," meaning it was never intended to become law, but rather to showcase issues House Democrats want to say they advocated for. Republicans described the bill as a “liberal wish list” that won't pass the Senate.

Here are three reactions to the HEROES Act.

1. The bill “has nothing to do with our current health and economic calamity”

Dr. James Dobson, psychologist and founder and president of the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute, condemned it, saying it “is laced with special interest spending that has nothing to do with our current health and economic calamity.”

“It is appalling the Democrats are willing to mortgage the future of our children and grandchildren, all to ram through a socialist agenda that runs counter to the wishes of most Americans, not to mention the Constitution of the United States!” he said in a statement shared with The Christian Post. 

“Our politicians serve the people of this great nation and the governing laws that support it. If they can’t get with the program, it’s time for them to be reminded of whom they serve,” added Dobson, the author of 71 books dedicated to the preservation of the family.

2. Republicans shocked by cannabis provisions; Democrat touts voting changes

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, responded to the proposed legislation on the Senate floor Thursday by noting that the word “cannabis” appears in the bill 68 times, and that's “more times than the word ‘job’ and four times as many as the word ‘hire,’” according to The Washington Times.

“Democrats’ proposed coronavirus bill includes taxpayer-funded studies to measure diversity and inclusion among the people who profit off of marijuana,” he said.

He added: “Maybe it’s best if House Democrats focus on cannabis studies and leave economics to the rest of us. … House Democrats had a blank slate to write anything they wanted to define the modern Democratic Party, any vision for the society they wanted, and here’s what they chose: tax hikes on small businesses, giveaways to blue state millionaires, government checks for illegal immigrants and sending diversity detectives to inspect the pot industry.”

Democrat Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren of California praised the bill’s passage, however, touting the inclusion of $3.6 million to expand voting by mail which doesn't require voter ID, as well as health and safety changes for in-person polling locations. 

“[T]he Heroes Act includes important provisions which I have authored” … including “expanding no-excuse absentee vote by mail for every voter who wishes it, and providing 15 consecutive days of early in-person voting … In the event of an emergency declaration, and including the COVID-19 pandemic, the bill provides that every registered voter will be mailed an absentee ballot with prepaid return postage so that they may vote from the safety of their homes,” Lofgren said in a statement.

On Wednesday, Sen. James Lankford, a Republican from Oklahoma, also said on the floor that the bill “actually sets up a series of changes in our federal cannabis laws, which immediately I thought of, OK, how much information is in this bill about cannabis?”

He added, “Cannabis is actually mentioned in this bill 68 times. Now, I’m not sure why that’s in a bill dealing with COVID-19, but it does dramatic changes in our federal cannabis laws.”

3. It carries “praiseworthy” criminal justice reform provisions

James Ackerman, president and CEO of Prison Fellowship, a Christian nonprofit serving prisoners and former prisoners as well as their families, praised the criminal justice reform provisions included in the bill. “As the positive COVID-19 cases in prisons nationwide now surpasses 25,000 and the death toll climbs, we are grateful to see lawmakers including this vulnerable population in the House legislative agenda,” he said in a statement.

Heather Rice-Minus, vice president of Government Affairs and Church Mobilization for Prison Fellowship, added: “Historically, criminal justice reform has required bipartisan support to get it to get to the finish line. We’re pleased many of Prison Fellowship’s key priorities have been included in the HEROES Act, from allowing second chance business owners access to the Paycheck Protection Program to increasing re-entry funding. However, we are working hard to forge a bipartisan path that will ensure the final bill delivered to the President’s desk remembers those in prison.”

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