House narrowly passes $2.2 trillion stimulus package; bill heads to Senate

WASHINGTON — The House narrowly passed a new $2.2 trillion stimulus package on Thursday that would give Americans out of work $600 a week in federal unemployment benefits, help struggling small businesses and put a $1,200 check in the hands of millions of citizens.

The bill, which passed by 214-207 margin, now moves to the Senate, where the Republican majority is likely to reject it.

Eighteen Democrats crossed party lines to vote against the measure; House Republicans were unanimous in opposing the bill.

Before the vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, told reporters that negotiations had stalled. Negotiations between Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin could continue next week.

Leaving the House floor Thursday evening ahead of the vote, Pelosi said there would be no resolution on the stimulus negotiations, but added that “talks will continue.”

When she was asked about the odds of an agreement, Pelosi said, “I don’t know. It just depends. We’ll see.”

The package proposed by House Democrats would provide people out of work $600 a week in federal unemployment benefits. The bill would also help struggling small businesses and put a $1,200 check in the hands of millions of Americans.

The bill is the latest attempt to give struggling Americans some relief in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, which has slowed down a U.S. economy that had been booming before the virus hit the nation.

The House package is a trimmed version of the $3.4 trillion Heroes Act passed by the House in May, The Washington Post reported. Senate Republicans and the White House rejected the bill as excessively costly, the newspaper reported.

Pelosi and Mnuchin met face to face Wednesday to try to craft a deal on a COVID-19 package that would pass the House and the Senate. They spoke again by telephone for 50 minutes on Thursday.

“This is a very smart bill, we’re very proud of it," Pelosi said at her weekly news conference. “And we want people to see what the possibilities are.”

The proposed bill includes the $600-per-week unemployment benefit, a second round of direct payments of $1,200 to millions of Americans, money for the Paycheck Protection Plan, $25 billion to reverse layoffs at airline and $436 billion aid package to cities and states. It also includes $225 billion in payments to colleges and universities, and another round of subsidies to businesses for the PPP.

“We’re hopeful that we can reach an agreement because the needs of the American people are great,” Pelosi said. “But there has to be a recognition that it takes money to do that, and it takes the right language to make sure it’s done right.”