House

Vulnerable Democrats tell Pelosi COVID-19 compromise 'essential'

A group of vulnerable House Democrats on Thursday began circulating a new letter calling on Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) to hold a vote on a bipartisan coronavirus relief package before Election Day. 

The moderates, led Problem Solvers Caucus Co-Chairman Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) and freshman Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), said they did not support a GOP resolution to force a vote on emergency aid for small businesses - a tactic that had gained some momentum in recent days from centrist Democrats anxious about heading home without money for constituents struggling with the pandemic. 

"We write to urge you to continue bipartisan negotiations with our Republican colleagues and the Administration, so that we may deliver meaningful relief for the American people," the letter to Pelosi and Hoyer says, according to a copy provided to The Hill. "Currently, a discharge petition is the only potential option for COVID-19 related action on the House Floor; we do not believe that is the best path forward."

"However, it is essential that we send the Senate a compromise bill before the election that is reasonable and that can be signed into law by the President of the United States," the moderates wrote.

The effort comes on the same day top Democrats confirmed that Pelosi had instructed committee chairmen this week to begin drafting a scaled-back pandemic relief package in the neighborhood of $2.2 trillion. That was the last offer that Pelosi had made to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the top White House negotiator. 

Democrats said it appeared there would be a vote on the new relief package sometime next week, though it was unclear if a deal with Mnuchin could be struck before then.

"Given the massive impact on this pandemic on our communities, we cannot leave until we pass much-needed relief in the areas of: COVID-19 testing, state and local aid, unemployment insurance, direct stimulus payments, support for small businesses and non-profits, food security, broadband, funding for schools and child care, housing, and agriculture support," the letter from moderates stated.  

"Passing a bipartisan COVID-19 relief package should be our number one priority in the coming days. It is our request that you continue to negotiate towards a bipartisan deal, and we stand ready to work with you to ensure that Americans can receive the urgent relief they need as quickly as possible," the letter continues.

Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Iowa) has been circulating a separate letter among fellow freshman Democrats that will be sent to Pelosi on Friday. He letter calls on Pelosi to bring to the floor a "revised and streamlined" COVID-19 package next week.

"While we have all expressed our willingness to remain in Washington in order to push for an agreement, we write to you now to implore you to bring a revised and streamlined COVID-19 relief package to the floor next week. Americans are counting on us; they cannot wait any longer," the Axne letter states.

"The political stalemate has gone too long. We demand a vote on a clean relief package that has direct assistance for those in need. Regardless if the White House or Senate agree, we must show the American people that the House of Representatives is open to negotiations and clear in our resolve to deliver aid for millions in need," her letter adds.

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