Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is withholding support for the new emergency coronavirus rescue deal being hammered out by the White House and Congress, as she and other far-left House members say the talks fall far short of their priorities.
“It is insulting to think that we can pass such a small amount of money in the context of not knowing when Congress is even going to reconvene. Pass such a small amount of money, pat ourselves on the back and then leave town again,” the New York Democrat said. “I am not here for a $5 bill. I’m not. And I will not insult my community with one.”
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Pramila Jayapal, one of the co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said they want to see the final version of the bill before they decide whether to support it.
Details of the deal leaking out of the talks, however, don’t impress them.
“We have real concerns about giving away leverage now without getting some of the priorities that we need,” said Ms. Jayapal, Washington Democrat.
Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said the deal lawmakers are discussing was closer to $300 billion for the popular Paycheck Protection Program loans for small businesses to keep workers on the payrolls.
The tentative deal also has $50 billion for disaster loans, $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion to expand coronavirus testing, he said.
Progressives want to secure a long list of liberal priorities in the next phase of coronavirus legislation — the CARES Act 2.0 — including more unemployment benefits, stronger protections for frontline workers, nationwide testing and updates to voting procedures during the pandemic.
“We just have to reject any calls for a return to normal, because that normal is one that was slowly killing people,” said Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Massachusetts Democrat. “When [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell says he’s tired of our wish list. We’re going to keep wishing, we’re going to keep organizing, we’re going to keep mobilizing, and we’re going to keep working.”
They want a surge in direct payments beyond the $1,200 checks going to most Americans from the last economic rescue package. This time, they want families to receive regular payments of as much as $2,000 as long as the pandemic continues.
They also want to close gaps they saw in the first CARES Act. That means ensuring the financial and health needs of black and other minority groups that are being disproportionately affected are met.
What’s more, all of the protections and benefits should be extended to immigrants without documentation who are essential workers, according to the Progressive Caucus.
“It’s important for us to remember that our immigrant brothers and sisters are undocumented folks are still members of our community, and they need to be cared for as much as anyone else in our community is, this is a public health crisis, and that public health needs to be protected for everyone,” said Rep. Ilhan Omar, Minnesota Democrat.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez hesitated to say whether she would come down to Washington this week and oppose the bill in person to derail passage on a voice vote.
She expressed frustrations that Congress isn’t in session so lawmakers can try to fight for a more nuanced or robust deal in person.
“Incrementalism is not helpful in this moment. It’s not helpful for people to say, ‘Oh, well we got something so we might as well support it,’” she said. “It’s like putting a Band-Aid on an enormous wound. It’s not going to help us.”