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Pelosi unveils $3T coronavirus stimulus plan, but GOP balks

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California delivers a

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California delivers a statement on House Democrats' Heroes Act aid package Tuesday on Capitol Hill in Washington. Credit: Pool / Graeme Jennings via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday unveiled a new, expansive $3 trillion coronavirus federal aid package that could bring an estimated $67 billion to New York state and local governments, but it quickly ran into Republican opposition.

Pelosi released the Democrats’ 1,815-page legislative package, which would be the largest emergency spending bill in history, with plans for a House vote on it Friday to lay down a marker for negotiations with the White House and congressional Republicans.

“We must think big for the people now, because if we don’t it will cost more in lives and livelihood later,” Pelosi said at the Capitol. “We’re presenting a plan to do what is necessary to deal with a chronic crisis and make sure we can get the country back to work and school safely.”

Republicans gave a cool reaction to the bill, and Senate Republicans likely won’t take it up until June, after the Memorial Day recess that begins a week from Friday.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said the bill is “a liberal wish list that has no chance of becoming law.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has called for a pause in aid bills, said, “This is not a time for aspirational legislation.”

McConnell also will come to the table with his own proposal — a Senate Republican bill he has championed to raise the threshold of liability for employers, manufacturers, health providers and schools against COVID-19-related lawsuits by affected workers and others.

The core of the Democrats' new aid bill, dubbed the Heroes Act, lies in nearly $1 trillion for state and local governments, many of them struggling with a sharp drop in revenues. A total of $500 billion would go to state governments, according to the bill.

But the bill also would provide $200 billion for hazard pay for essential workers, a measure pushed by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.); $175 billion to aid struggling renters and homeowners, and another $100 billion for health care providers.

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It also includes $75 billion for testing and contact tracing, $25 billion for the ailing U.S. Post Office and $10 billion for small business economic injury disaster loans.

Other expensive measures carry no exact price tag, such as another round of direct cash payments to individuals and families, extension of current unemployment benefits with the $600 bonus, a 15% boost to food stamps, and COBRA subsidies to people losing employer-provided health insurance.

And stuffed into the bill are nuggets for New York.

In addition to an estimated $34.4 billion to New York State, $17.2 billion for New York City and $15.1 billion for other New York municipalities and counties, it also contains the much-prized repeal of the $10,000 cap on state and local government tax deductions for the next two years.

And it also includes what appears to be flexibility for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to cut Medicaid costs while still collecting extra federal aid, according to Bill Hammond of the fiscally conservative Empire Center.

Many of the bill’s measures face fierce opposition from Republicans — including the SALT cap repeal, an election law overhaul, and multi-employer and other pension fund bailouts — and may end up cut from the final legislation.

“We’re going to insist on doing narrowly targeted legislation, if and when we do legislate again,” McConnell said.

Earlier Tuesday, McConnell stressed his red line for passage of a fifth aid bill: a measure to raise the liability threshold and make it harder to file COVID-19-related lawsuits against employers large and small, manufacturers, schools and health care providers.

That proposal is popular with business groups such as Association for a Better Long Island. But Democrats call it a nonstarter. Schumer said, “Come on, stop the ideological issues.”

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Tuesday said the House, which is in recess because of the pandemic, will reconvene Friday morning for a vote on the Heroes Act and a bill to allow remote sessions and votes in the future.

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said he expects to support the bill in Friday’s House vote. Pelosi, King said, is passing the bill to put down a marker for negotiations, in which both sides will have to give up some of their measures to find a compromise both sides can support.

Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) hailed the new legislation for including his priorities of a special fund for the hardest-hit states based on the rate of COVID-19 rate of infection, the repeal of the SALT deduction cap and funds for smaller governments.

Suozzi, who noted that many Republican governors and mayors also support the state and local government aid, said, “Let the negotiations begin.”

Editor's note -- The Association for a Better Long Island was incorrectly identified in an earlier version of this story.

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