GOP lawmakers slam proposals for guaranteed income amid pandemic
House Republicans are pushing back on the idea of providing a minimum guaranteed income to Americans amid the financial fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) expressed an openness to the concept on Monday during an interview with MSNBC while discussing the financial aid recently approved by Congress to help bolster the economy.
“Let’s see what works, what is operational and what needs attention,” she said.
“Others have suggested a minimum income, a guaranteed income for people. Is that worthy of attention now? Perhaps so,” Pelosi continued. “Because there are many more people than just in small business and hired by small business … that may need some assistance as well.”
While Congress previously passed coronavirus relief measures that included provisions to provide up to $1,200 to individuals and forgivable loans to small businesses, proponents of a universal basic income have argued that Congress needs to do more to help Americans stay afloat.
However, top GOP lawmakers are accusing Democrats of attempting to use the pandemic to move policy to the left, blasting the proposal as fiscally irresponsible and opportunistic.
“It’s incredibly tone-deaf of Speaker Pelosi to continue using this crisis to push these radical socialist ideas that have been consistently rejected,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said. “What we should be focused on is responsibly implementing the relief packages we passed to get trillions of dollars directly into the hands of families and businesses so the American people have jobs and an economy to come back to when we finally reopen.”
Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) echoed Scalise’s sentiments, arguing that Congress should be working on a plan to get the economy back on track after the pandemic.
“Congressional Democrats already told us they’re taking advantage of a crisis to turn America into a socialist country. They admitted this pandemic is a ‘tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit [their] vision,’ ” Banks said, referring to a comment made by House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.). “Republicans, on the other hand, are trying to provide temporary relief to preserve the strong Trump economy we had before the pandemic.”
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) also blasted Democrats for considering the idea.
“The Speaker’s comments reaffirm that Republicans are the party of working Americans while Democrats prefer diminished productivity, hundreds of millions for illegal aliens, upgrades to the Kennedy Center and bailouts for states that made bad decisions before COVID-19 ever escaped the Wuhan Institute of Virology,” Gaetz told The Hill.
There has been no evidence that the coronavirus outbreak originated from a research lab in Wuhan.
Meanwhile, others have argued that they don’t believe creating another safety net is necessary, pointing out that there are already programs in place that can be utilized to help those struggling financially.
“We already have a universal basic income — it’s called work. We also have [Social Security Disability Insurance] SSDI for people who are unable to work physically or due to disabilities. We have security if you’re older, they’ve earned it,” Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-Mich.) told The Hill.
“We have a variety of forms of support for people like unemployment compensation and public assistance for purely short-term assistance,” Mitchell continued, “so I’m trying to understand exactly what [Pelosi] wants to do besides throw more money at people.”
While the idea of a standard income has faced strong opposition from the GOP, members of both parties have floated proposals for additional federal assistance to be provided to individuals and businesses amid the pandemic.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) has proposed for the federal government to pay 80 percent of workers’ wages through the end of the pandemic. And Reps. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) and Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) have proposed for those making less than $130,000 a year to receive a monthly payment of at least $2,000.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, introduced a measure that would create a program to provide a federal guarantee for 100 percent of workers’ salaries up to $100,000 for up to three months.
Updated: April 30, 10:41 a.m.