Ocasio-Cortez comes out against interim coronavirus relief bill
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said Monday that she opposes the latest version of an interim relief package to address the coronavirus pandemic, while acknowledging that the legislation hasn’t been finalized yet.
“We have not seen the final text of this bill. But what I can say is that if it matches up with what has been reported, I will not support this bill, personally,” Ocasio-Cortez said during a call with progressive groups.
“It is insulting to think we can pass such a small amount of money in the context of not knowing when Congress is even going to reconvene and pass such a small amount of money, pat ourselves on the back and then leave town again,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
Congressional leaders and the Trump administration are negotiating an interim bill to refill the coffers of a small business loan program that ran out of funds last week due to high demand.
Democrats have been pushing for the package to also include funds for hospitals, state and local governments and food assistance.
According to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the emerging measure would include $300 billion for the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, $50 billion for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion for testing.
Congressional Republicans and the White House have been reluctant to add funds for state and local governments, though President Trump said Sunday that “it will probably be our next negotiation” in the next coronavirus relief bill.
House Democrats are expected to hold a conference call later Monday to discuss the negotiations for the interim package.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, acknowledged that it would be hard to support an interim measure that doesn’t have funding for states and municipalities.
“It’s going to be very difficult to support a package that doesn’t have some of the desperate relief that we need for state and local governments, for people,” Jayapal said during Monday’s call with progressives.
“I want to wait to see what’s exactly in the package, but we have a couple of days to continue to try to influence the direction that we take. And I hope that we can push hard, both in this interim package and in the next CARES 2 package, to recognize that we just have not gotten relief to people,” Jayapal said, referring to follow-up legislation to the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that Trump signed into law on March 27.
Ocasio-Cortez, meanwhile, called for expanding the coronavirus-relief checks mandated by the CARES Act. The one-time payments of up to $1,200 have already started going out to individuals making $75,000 or less, with others who make up to $99,000 annually receiving smaller prorated amounts. Families can also receive $500 per child under the program.
Ocasio-Cortez said the payments should go out on a recurring, monthly basis of up to $2,000 per individual with an additional $1,000 per child.
“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. We got a nickel, we got a dime in a trillion dollar bill, so a nickel is more than nothing so we should support it,’” Ocasio-Cortez said, calling that kind of approach “unacceptable.”
“I would be amenable to accepting this kind of logic if Congress actually was in session and convening. But if we’re going to say that this new bill is going to give us $5, and then Congress is going to peace out for another month-long recess, I’m here to say that’s not going to help our communities,” Ocasio-Cortez added.
The House has been out of session for most of the last month, with the exception of pro forma sessions and the March 27 vote on the coronavirus relief measure.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s (D-Md.) office has advised members that there could be a vote as soon as Wednesday on the interim relief measure. It’s unclear whether Congress will remain in session after that or if lawmakers will be sent back home to continue monitoring the crisis from their districts and to lower the risk of spreading the virus in the Capitol.
Members of both parties have been clamoring for a way to conduct votes and hearings remotely during the pandemic. House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) last week proposed changing the chamber’s rules to allow proxy voting, in which absent members can authorize members physically present in the Capitol to cast votes on their behalf.
Updated at 2:57 p.m.