Centrist Democrats got their COVID bill, now they want a vote

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiThe Memo: Trump leaves changed nation in his wake New York court worker arrested, accused of threats related to inauguration GOP Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene referred to Parkland school shooting as 'false flag' event on Facebook MORE (D-Calif.) took a remarkable step this week in shifting tactics to begin drafting a new partisan package of coronavirus relief.

But the same moderate Democrats she’s aiming to appease with the $2.4 trillion proposal want something more: a guarantee they’ll get to vote on it.

“They haven’t committed to a vote yet,” said Rep. Max RoseMax RoseWe lost in November — we're proud we didn't take corporate PAC money COVID-19 is wild card as Pelosi faces tricky Speaker vote Sunday Yang files to open campaign account for NYC mayor MORE (D), a vulnerable first-tem New York lawmaker who flipped a GOP seat in 2018. “I’m certainly not satisfied until they do.”


The comments highlight the challenge facing Pelosi and her leadership team, who are fighting to win an agreement with the White House on emergency COVID-19 aid while also seeking to protect vulnerable centrists wary of leaving Washington without acting on some new relief package.

Pelosi had held firm to her demand for at least $2.2 trillion in new stimulus spending — a figure well below the $3.4 trillion HEROES Act that House Democrats passed in May — even after negotiations with the White House broke down in early August. In doing so, she resisted the pleas of impatient moderates in her caucus calling to move a fresh package while the bipartisan talks were stalled.

On Thursday, as the grumbling from moderates grew louder, Pelosi relented, asking the heads of key committees to assemble a Democratic proposal reflecting the party’s priorities in addressing the health and economic wreckage caused by the deadly pandemic.

But party leaders, still hoping for a bipartisan deal, have not promised a vote on the package before the House recesses on Friday for the final stretch of campaigning.

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHouse to vote Thursday on waiver for Biden's Defense chief pick Boebert communications director resigns amid Capitol riot: report GOP divided over Liz Cheney's future MORE (D-Md.) has for weeks endorsed the notion of voting on a Democratic bill if no deal emerges with the White House. On Thursday, however, he said there’s no formal plan to bring the nascent partisan package to the floor, citing a preference for a bipartisan agreement before the end of next week.

“I don’t have an expectation at this point in time because our focus is we want to get a deal or an agreement with Mnuchin and the Senate. ... We want a bill passed and signed,” Hoyer told reporters in the Capitol, referring to Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinTreasury imposes additional sanctions on Cuba over allegations of 'serious human rights abuse' Treasury Department sanctions inner circle of Russian agent Derkach for election interference Sanders defends push to impeach Trump: Insurrection won't be tolerated MORE. “So that’s what our focus is, trying to get an agreement before we go home."


Pelosi and Mnuchin spoke several times this week about COVID-19 relief, including a phone call on Friday afternoon. “The two agreed to continue their conversation in the days ahead,” said a Pelosi spokesman.

The new Democratic package is expected to include all the major elements of the HEROES Act: another round of stimulus checks for most Americans; more money for unemployment insurance, rental assistance, food stamps and the Postal Service; and billions more for medical equipment and coronavirus testing.

"We're heading toward a resurgence of the virus in the fall, and until we defeat the virus, you're not going to have full economic recovery," said Rep. Richard NealRichard Edmund NealTrump's lawyers seek clarity about how tax-return case will proceed following Biden inauguration IRS says start of tax filing season delayed until Feb. 12 On The Money: Twenty states raise minimum wage at start of new year | Trade group condemns GOP push to overturn Biden victory | Top Democrat: Georgia runoffs will influence push for ,000 checks MORE (D-Mass.), who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee and is drafting large parts of the package. "That's what this is about."

The proposal will also include provisions not found in the HEROES legislation, including funds for the Paycheck Protection Program to prop up small businesses and emergency aid for the restaurant and airline industries.

Airline CEOs and union leaders, lobbying lawmakers at the Capitol this week, said they need $25 billion more in aid to stave off tens of thousands of layoffs that are set to occur at the end of the month; relief for airlines has been a priority for the White House.

"We're putting airlines in," said Rep. Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioSouthwest Airlines says it won't furlough workers after Trump signed relief bill Infrastructure? Not unless the House rethinks its offer Democrats ask GAO to study COVID-19 air travel risks MORE (D-Ore.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

With the number of U.S. coronavirus deaths topping 200,000 — and unemployment filings still at record highs — rank-and-file Democrats cheered the arrival of the new proposal in hopes that it might pressure Republicans to endorse an agreement that can become law.

"The key thing is that people keep negotiating," said Rep. Jim HimesJames (Jim) Andres HimesCOVID-19 could complicate Pelosi's path to Speaker next year Democrats debate fate of Trump probes if Biden wins House Democrats introduce bill to invest 0 billion in STEM research and education MORE (D-Conn.), former head of the New Democrat Coalition. "And it sounds to me like putting some meat on the bones of $2.2 trillion is a pretty good negotiating tactic."

On Friday, the Capitol took a brief pause from the presidential campaign and the fight over COVID-19 aid to remember the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader Ginsburg, George Floyd among options for 'Remember the Titans' school's new name Bipartisan anger builds over police failure at Capitol Lindsey Graham praises Merrick Garland as 'sound choice' to serve as attorney general MORE, who became the first woman to lie in state in the building.

But moderates were determined to keep the heat on Pelosi heading into the weekend. Vulnerable first-term Rep. Cindy AxneCindy AxneWill Pelosi bail out the GOP on election controversy Iowa losses underscore Democrats' struggles with attracting rural voters Democrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus MORE (D-Iowa), who flipped a GOP-held seat in 2018, penned a letter to Pelosi on Friday beseeching the Speaker to bring “a revised and streamlined COVID-19 relief package to the floor next week.”

The letter was signed by several other at-risk first-term Democratic lawmakers, including Reps. Angie Craig (Minn.), Abby FinkenauerAbby Lea FinkenauerChamber of Commerce slams GOP effort to challenge Biden's win Iowa losses underscore Democrats' struggles with attracting rural voters Here are the 17 GOP women newly elected to the House this year MORE (Iowa), Chris PappasChristopher (Chris) Charles PappasPappas fends off challenge from ex-Trump official in NH Centrist Democrats got their COVID bill, now they want a vote Trump-backed candidate wins NH GOP primary to take on Pappas MORE (N.H.) and Susan WildSusan WildHouse Democrats push Biden's Pentagon pick on civilian control of military Democratic Women's Caucus members split endorsements for House campaign chief Democratic Rep. Susan Wild wins reelection in Pennsylvania MORE (Pa.).

“Americans are counting on us; they cannot wait any longer,” the Democrats wrote. “We are asking you to bring up a bill that demonstrates our commitment to meeting [the White House and Senate] in the middle, as we have expressed our willingness to do, and advance it through the House with the haste this crisis demands.”


But the letter highlighted a small fissure among vulnerable moderates. The Axne group told Pelosi it wanted a vote “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,” they wrote.

Another group of moderates — led by Problem Solvers Caucus Co-Chairman Josh GottheimerJoshua (Josh) GottheimerGOP Problem Solvers Caucus co-chairman says he'll vote in favor of ,000 checks House passes massive spending deal, teeing up Senate vote McConnell getting much of what he wants in emerging relief deal MORE (D-N.J.), Rep. Abigail SpanbergerAbigail Davis Spanberger'I saw my life flash before my eyes': An oral history of the Capitol attack Chamber of Commerce slams GOP effort to challenge Biden's win Five centrist Democrats oppose Pelosi for Speaker in tight vote MORE (D-Va.) and Dean PhillipsDean PhillipsDemocrats poised to impeach Trump again Capitol Police say reports of officer's death are wrong Pro-Trump mob overruns Capitol, forcing evacuation MORE (D-Minn.) — wrote separately to Pelosi that a partisan, show vote just won’t cut it. They want a vote on a bipartisan “compromise” that is  “reasonable and that can be signed into law by the President of the United States.”

“Lives and livelihood are at stake and the window of opportunity is closing,” Phillips told The Hill. “America has rarely required its Congress to find common ground as it does now, and I implore that we meet the moment.”