Pelosi amends HEROES Act down to $2.2 trillion, hopes for deal with White House on more stimulus

"I believe we can come to an agreement," the House Speaker said Sunday. "However, at some point, the public is going to have to see why $2.2 or, now, $2.4 — perhaps — trillion dollars is necessary."

Updated: September 29, 2020 - 9:54am

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democratic leaders have amended the original HEROES Act and reduced its price tag to an estimated $2.2 trillion.

Pelosi remains open to negotiating with the White House and Senate GOP on more economic stimulus during the pandemic. 

"Democrats are making good on our promise to compromise with this updated bill, which is necessary to address the immediate health and economic crisis facing Americas working families right now," Pelosi wrote in a letter to her caucus sent on Monday evening. "We have been able to make critical additions and reduce the cost of the bill by shortening the time covered for now."

Pelosi said on Sunday that she is "hoping for a deal" among House Democrats, the White House and Senate Republicans on another coronavirus stimulus package but signaled that she's ready to push a new Democratic bill through the House after its earlier passage of the largest rescue package in history.

The $3.4 trillion HEROES Act, which was proposed by House Democratic leaders, passed the House on May 15 as a follow-up to the $2.2 trillion CARES Act that passed in March. Since then, the White House and congressional leaders have been unable to reach an agreement on another stimulus package.

"I have been willing to come below $3.4 trillion," Pelosi said Sunday on CNN. "We have come all the way down. So, I don't know why the press decides that — this equivalent for me to come down further while they're not going up any further. So, we are having our conversations.

"I trust Secretary Mnuchin to represent something that can reach a solution, and I believe we can come to an agreement. However, at some point, the public is going to have to see why $2.2 or, now, $2.4 — perhaps — trillion dollars is necessary." 

Pelosi also said it's "definitely a possibility" that the Democrat-led House will vote on a $2.4 trillion stimulus package as an alternative to the HEROES Act.   

"I'm hoping for a deal," she said. "I'd rather have a deal which puts money in people's pockets than to have a rhetorical argument. We have a chance to get something done, and we want to — what we will be putting forth is a proffer to say: 'Now, let us negotiate within a time frame and a dollar amount to get the job done to put money in people's pockets, to honor our heroes and to crush the virus.'"

The HEROES Act extended the added $600 weekly federal unemployment benefit from the CARES Act through Jan. 31.

The benefit expired at the end of July. The legislation also included $1 trillion for state and local governments and a second round of $1,200 stimulus payments. Undocumented immigrants who filed tax returns with tax ID numbers in place of Social Security numbers would qualify for two rounds of stimulus payments under the bill. The legislation was not voted on in the GOP-led Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had voiced opposition to the $1 trillion state and local funding as well as the stimulus payments for undocumented immigrants with tax ID numbers.

During the debate over additional economic stimulus measures during the pandemic, Republicans have also cited fiscal concerns related to the record $3 trillion deficit and growing national debt.

Last week, Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, the House majority leader, said Democrats are focused on reaching a "negotiated" agreement on another stimulus package.

"The reason being that a message bill is one thing, but we want to get something signed so people get money," he said.

The updated HEROES Act includes $1,200 direct payments for individuals and families as well as an additional $436 billion in federal funding for state and local governments. It would also restart the $600 federal unemployment benefit and extends it through January 2021.

Earlier this month, the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus proposed a $1.5 trillion stimulus package as an alternative to the HEROES Act, but Pelosi did not express support for the package. 

"What we want is to put something on the floor that will become law," Pelosi said.