By Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday narrowly approved a $3 trillion bill crafted by Democrats to provide more aid for battling the coronavirus and stimulating a faltering economy rocked by the pandemic.
By a vote of 208-199 Democrats won passage of a bill that Republican leaders, who control the Senate, have vowed to block despite some Republican support for provisions aimed at helping state and local governments.
Republican President Donald Trump has promised a veto if it were to reach his desk.
However, the Democrats’ measure could trigger a new round of negotiations with congressional Republicans and Trump, who have been talking about the need for new business liability protections in the age of coronavirus or additional tax cuts.
Democrats oppose both of those ideas.
Following the vote, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced that May 27-28 would be set aside for voting on some sort of coronavirus-related bill if one is ready by then.
He provided no details on the contents of such a bill.
The U.S. economy has suffered a devastating blow from the coronavirus outbreak. Some 36.5 million people – or more than one in five workers – in the United States have filed for unemployment since the crisis began.
The 1,800-page relief bill passed on Friday, called the Heroes Act, would extend to all corners of the U.S. economy. It includes $500 billion in aid to struggling state governments, another round of direct payments to individuals and families to help stimulate the economy, and hazard pay for healthcare workers and others on the front line of the pandemic.
“Many of them have risked their lives to save lives and many of them may lose their jobs” as state and local government revenues plummet during the crisis, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said during a day-long debate.
The No. 2 Republican, Steve Scalise, urged the House to defeat the huge bill, calling it a “socialist giveaway” and blaming China, where the coronavirus emerged late last year, for the suffering brought by the pandemic.