Progressives to buck party by voting against $3T coronavirus relief bill

At least two progressive House Democrats have announced plans to vote against the $3 trillion coronavirus relief package their party will bring forward for a vote Friday. 

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said in a statement Friday that she will be voting “no” on the bill because, among other things, the legislation does not guarantee “affordable and accessible health care for everyone,” guarantee enough forgivable loans to minority-owned small businesses and doesn’t safeguard pensions. 

“At the core, our response from Congress must match the true scale of this devastating crisis. The Heroes Act —while it contains many important provisions — simply fails to do that,” said Jayapal, who co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Jayapal is also part of the “Unity Task Force” focused on pushing progressive ideas in former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign.

Jayapal and other progressive lawmakers have also indicated that the bill as written is too friendly to corporate interests. 

For example, the bill includes premium subsidies so that workers can maintain their health insurance coverage if they are eligible for COBRA, a program that allows employees who have been laid off to stay on their old employer’s health plan.

Jayapal said that the provision would be a giveaway to the health insurance industry, while leaving people who can’t afford to stay on their plan left to “risk it.”

Jayapal and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) sent a letter to Democratic leaders on Tuesday asking that the vote on the package be delayed until next week and called for a caucus meeting “to discuss the bill and any amendments that might be needed to ensure that it truly reflects the priorities and the work of the entire caucus.” 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) responded by sending a “Dear Colleague” letter Tuesday evening, saying, “We urge you to support the legislation and to be present on Friday.”

Fourteen House Democrats — nine of whom are members of the Progressive Caucus — voted against the procedural rule allowing the HEROES Act to come to the floor for a vote, underscoring concerns within the party about the legislation. 

Voting against the procedural rule does not guarantee they will vote “no” on the bill. Even if all 14 members vote against the bill, it will still pass the House and go to the Senate, where lawmakers have declared it “dead on arrival.”

Democratic Reps. Ro Khanna (Calif.) and Ilhan Omar (Minn.) also indicated on Twitter that they would vote “no” on the procedural rule that would bring the legislation to the floor for a vote, citing similar concerns as Jayapal.  

“We have a healthcare crisis yet no expansion of Medicaid or Medicare,” tweeted Khanna, the first House Democrat to announce his opposition. “FDR didn’t talk about employer retirement accounts. LBJ didn’t talk about voting rights in some precincts.”

Omar said the party needs to meet the task at hand with “bold ideas that meet the scale of the crisis.”

A spokesperson for Omar told The Hill that she is voting “yes” on the $3 trillion package.

A spokesperson for New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who was the only Democrat to vote “no” on the interim stimulus bill in April, told HuffPost that she will be a “no” vote on the HEROES Act as well. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a prominent progressive lawmaker and former Democratic presidential candidate that every aforementioned congressperson backed, said Thursday that House Democrats need to “improve” the bill before sending it to the Senate. 

Updated 4:44 p.m.

Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Bernie Sanders Congressional Progressive Caucus Coronavirus Heroes Act Ilhan Omar Joe Biden Mark Pocan Nancy Pelosi Pramila Jayapal Ro Khanna
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