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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ramped up the pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to pass another round of coronavirus legislation, arguing that public opinion is in favor of a massive relief effort.
Pelosi said the $3 trillion Heroes Act the House passed Friday has "broad support across the country" and McConnell cannot afford to do nothing.
"We call on Leader McConnell [to act]. We have the HEROES bill. Others say he has the Zeroes Bill," Pelosi quipped Thursday. "We need this bill for many reasons."
Meanwhile, in the Senate Thursday, McConnell railed against the House for not returning to full session during the pandemic, like the Senate, and dismissed the HEROES Act as an "absurd, unserious proposal." McConnell said the four rounds of coronavirus legislation the House and Senate already passed were successful and now America is ready to reopen.
"It worked," McConnell said. "The American people did what Americans do: They got it done."
But Pelosi said Thursday the work is far from over to help struggling families and protect public employees from layoffs. The House's $3 trillion plan -- the most expensive bill passed in history -- is probably not big enough, she said at a press conference Thursday.
"They said to me 'you go big. You go big.' We went big but not any bigger than is necessary," Pelosi said. "In fact, we could do more. And we probably will have to [do more] depending on what comes next in our economy and meeting our health needs."
Pelosi has said the $3 trillion bill was actually "lean."
"It's lean. It's disciplined. It's focused on the health and well being of the American people," Pelosi said Wednesday. "It is a way to open up our economy based on science."
Pelosi's office on Thursday sent around public opinion polls that showed 67 percent of the American people support the HEROES Act. She said the public sentiment will eventually bring McConnell to the table, but right now "he has decided to obstruct."
She asked whether McConnell and Republicans were "ashamed" for not wanting to spend money to help Americans devastated by the economic and health crisis.
"Aren't they ashamed to say ... 'I don't want to spend money to feed people in America,'" Pelosi said.
The HEREOS Act includes $915 billion in state and local aid that could prevent layoffs of public workers, like first responders and teachers; 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 legislation doles out $1,200 to eligible individuals, up to $6,000 per household. The bill extends add-on unemployment benefits of $600 in addition to state benefits through January 2021, and provides $175 billion for families to pay their mortgages and rent. The legislation includes student loan forgiveness, an employee retention tax credit and increases maximum SNAP benefits by 15 percent.
But tucked into the legislation are provisions that rankled the Republicans, including expanding $1,200 checks to certain undocumented immigrants, restoring the full State and Local Tax Deduction (SALT) that helps individuals in high-taxed blue states, a $25 billion rescue for the U.S. Postal Service, allowing legal marijuana businesses to access banking services and early voting and vote-by-mail provisions.
Pelosi said this legislation is the starting point of negotiations and Republicans should put forth their own proposal.