On May 15, the House of Representatives passed a $3 trillion tax cut and spending bill aimed at addressing the devastating economic fallout from the growing Coronavirus outbreak by directing huge sums of money into all corners of the economy. The Trump Administration and Senate Republicans have decried the measure’s design and said they will cast it aside, leaving uncertain what steps policymakers might take as the economy continues to face severe strains. The sweeping legislation, dubbed the “Heroes Act, passed 208-199. Fourteen Democrats defected and opposed the bill, reflecting concerns voiced both by moderates and liberals in the House Democratic caucus about the bill’s content and the leadership-driven process that brought it to the floor. The bill won support from just one Republican, Congressman Peter King of New York, generally regarded as a relatively moderate Republican. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) pushed forward despite the divisions in her caucus and Republican opposition, arguing that the legislation will put down a marker for Democrats’ priorities and set the stage for negotiations on the next bipartisan relief bill. Americans “are suffering so much, in so many ways. We want to lessen their pain,” Pelosi said during the House floor debate. “Not to act now is not only irresponsible in a humanitarian way, it is irresponsible because it’s only going to cost more, more in terms of lives, livelihood, cost to the budget, cost to our democracy.”
As Washington scrambled to deal with the growing impact of the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year, the Trump administration, state governments, local officials, and businesses took steps to send many Americans home as a way to try to contain the contagion. This led to a mass wave of layoffs that began more than two months ago and has continued every week since, particularly as Americans have sharply pulled back spending. Congress has passed four bipartisan coronavirus relief bills that have already cost around $3 trillion to try to blunt the economic fallout. While Republicans and Trump administration officials agree that more action will be necessary at some point, many say it’s time to pause and see how the programs already funded are working before devoting even more federal funds to the crisis as deficits balloon. “The president has said he would talk about state and local aid, but it cannot become a pretext for bailing out blue states that have gotten themselves into financial trouble, so while he’s open to discussing it he has no immediate plans to move forward,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said, adding, “The Pelosi bill has been entirely unacceptable.”
In a reflection of clashing priorities that might make it difficult to come to an agreement on additional relief legislation, White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow floated slashing the 21 percent corporate tax rate in half for companies that return operations to the United States from overseas, a dramatic change that drew immediate opposition from Democrats. President Donald Trump has also called for a payroll tax cut and new legal liability protections for businesses in any future legislation, policies that have already been rejected by Democrats, and, in the case of the payroll tax cut, some Republicans as well. President Trump himself is pushing for the economy to reopen as quickly as possible and said recently that he’s in “no rush” to sign off on additional spending.