US House approves $2.2tn Covid-19 relief bill

The Democrats-led US House of Representatives has passed a massive $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill, after last-minute talks between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin failed to yield a bipartisan agreement, media reports said.

The bill was approved late Thursday night by a vote of 214 to 207, The Hill news website reported.

It did not however, receieve a single Republican vote.

Thursday night’s package features almost $500 billion for state and local governments; a renewal of $600 weekly payments for unemployment benefits; another round of $1,200 checks for individuals; $75 billion for coronavirus testing; and billions of dollars more for schools, the Postal Service, food stamps, rental assistance and election security. It also contains emergency bailout funds for two industries hit hardest by the pandemic: airlines and restaurants.

The vote came amid talks between Pelosi and Mnuchin to negotiate an agreement, which would also continue on Friday, the sixth consecutive day.

Friday is also the final day that the House is slated to be in Washington before returning home to campaign before November 3, said a Politico news report.

“We’ll see where we go from there tonight, but I’ve spoken to him a number of times already,” Pelosi was quoted as saying to reporters after the vote.

“Even if we came to some agreement, nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to it’s the language.”

Pelosi and other top Democrats believe a deal could still be reached on Friday, and party leaders made clear they would keep lawmakers in Washington through the weekend if an agreement was imminent.

Meanwhile, Republicans in the Senate and White House both oppose the measure and are backing a proposal that is $600 billion less than the Democratic legislation.

“I’d like to see another rescue package. We’ve been trying for months to get there. I wish them (Pelosi and Mnuchin) well,” The Hill news website quoted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

While, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy characterized the package as “the Pelosi pipedream 2.0”, White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said it was time for the Speaker and the Democrats to bring their number down after Republicans put real money on the table.