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House Dems Pass The COVID-Relief Bill While Republicans Party At COVID Super-Spreader CPAC Event

Yesterday afternoon, one of my friends in Congress was moaning he'd be up all night because they wouldn't be able to pass Biden's COVID-rescue package 'til 2 am. Prescient... it passed at 2:01 am. It passed very narrowly-- 219 to 212. Mike Bost (R-IL) didn't vote. But he was hardly the only Republican who didn't bother staying up all night-- at least not in DC. Many were partying at the mask-free, neo-fascist super-spreader event, CPAC, in Orlando... and taking advantage of proxy voting that allows people who are ill-- and obviously anyone at CPAC is very, very, very ill-- to designate a proxy to vote for them. Writing for USA Today this morning, Cristal Hayes noted that this past summer furious Republicans were flipping out over the rules change. "They held news conferences. They lobbied their members against using the proxy function. House Republican leadership even led a lawsuit over the change, calling it unconstitutional. But now it appears quite a few members of the GOP have changed their tune. And a host of Republicans designated proxies, each citing the 'ongoing public health emergency,' to travel to Florida for the Conservative Political Action Conference. Since Thursday, when CPAC began its annual conference, nearly two dozen House Republicans have written letters to the House clerk to notify they would be absent due to the COVID-19 pandemic and designated a proxy to vote on their behalf. Others, including several CPAC speakers, designated proxies to cast their vote before Thursday."

Among the neo-Nazis who spoke at CPAC and sent false letters to the House Clerk are Matt Gaetz (FL), Greg Steube (FL), Mad Cawthorn (NC), Ted Budd (NC), Mark Green (TN), and vacationing fascists Paul Gosar (AZ), Devin Nunes (CA), Mike Kelly (PA), Lauren Boebert (CO), Jim Banks (IN)... Cawthorn, who should not have a "neo" next to his Nazi designation, was one of the right-wing extremists and insurrectionists-- currently fending off a series of sexual harassment charges-- who had a noisy hissy fit over the proxy rules change. At the time he tweeted: "Leaders show up no matter how uncertain the times are. The Democrats are cowards for hiding and not showing up to work. I guess we can label them as 'Nonessential personnel'?"

Anyway, no one ever thought Cawthorn-- or any of the other CPAC banditos-- would vote for the bill. There are, however, 45 Republican incumbents who may have made a career-threatening mistake by voting no... Republicans in swingy districts where it takes more than just Republican votes to win reelection. And among them are 9 who represent districts that Biden won in November-- David Valadao (CA), Mike Garcia (CA), Young Kim (CA), Michelle Steel (CA), Maria Salazar (FL), Don Bacon (NE), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA), Beth Van Duyne (TX)-- plus one where Biden and Trump were tied, Ann Wagner (MO).

There were also 2 Democrats who-- though not down in Orlando at CPAC-- voted no. Both are extreme Blue Dogs, Kurt Schrader of Oregon-- the last remaining Democrat in the House who voted against increasing the minimum wage in 2019 (all the others having been appropriately defeated for reelection in 2020)-- and Jared Golden of Maine. Schrader never really tries to hide what he is: a Republican with a "D" next to his name. He has an "F" grade from ProgressivePunch and a 60.69 lifetime crucial vote score. Golden is a very different story.

Golden also has a grade of "F" but his lifetime crucial vote score is far worse than Schrader's: 47.54, the fifth worst of any Democrat in the House [making him a potential Schumer recruit for Senate some day, a future Kyrsten Sinema]:

  • Jared Golden (Blue Dog-ME)- 47.54

  • Josh Gottheimer (Blue Dog-NJ)- 46.84

  • Abigail Spanberger (Blue Dog-VA)- 45.90

  • Jim Costa (Blue Dog-CA)- 45.50

  • Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX)- 41.27

You may recall that Golden was a Blue America-endorsed candidate in 2018, when he first ran for Congress. But he didn't just persuade us he was a progressive; he persuaded himself he was too! He ran as a progressive on a solid activist platform and when he won-- with our help-- he immediately joined the Congressional Progressive Caucus. That, however was short-lived. He soon made an inner discovery. He wasn't a progressive after all, but a reactionary. Oops! He left the Progressive Caucus and quickly found a new home: the Blue Dog Coalition, the worst piece of the Republican wing of the Democratic Party. This is what Golden (and Schrader and every Republican) voted against last night:

  • Survival Checks: $1,400 direct payments per individual making less than $75,000 per year ($150,000 per year for joint filers) plus $1,400 per child, including mixed-status families

  • $15 Federal Minimum Wage: Raises the Federal minimum wage to $15/hour by 2025, the first increases in more than a decade

  • Expanded Unemployment Assistance: Expands the current Federal unemployment benefits beyond the current March 14 expiration date, extends PUA program through August 29, and increases the monthly supplemental benefit to $400 per month

  • Increased Child Tax Credit: Makes the Child Tax Credit fully refundable and increases its amount to $3,000 per child and $3,600 per child under the age of six; this will cut child poverty in half

  • COVID-19 Vaccinations: Over $20 billion to establish a National COVID-19 Vaccination Program that speeds up the distribution of vaccines while also providing $47.8 billion for testing, contact tracing, and mitigation

  • Robust State and Local Funding: More than $6.9 billion to communities across Washington state including more than $285 million in Washington’s Seventh Congressional District, more than $437 million for King County and more than $159 million for Snohomish County, and more than $239 million for Seattle

  • Housing Assistance: $26 billion for emergency rental assistance, $10 billion to help homeowners afford their mortgage, and $5 billion for utility assistance

  • Nutrition Assistance: Invests in food security by extending SNAP maximum benefits by 15%, providing $1.1 billion in additional SNAP administrative funds, allocates $800 million in WIC, and invests in more than $5 billion in the Pandemic-EBT program

  • Funding for Schools and Childcare Facilities: Nearly $130 billion to help K-12 schools reopen safely and $39 billion for Child Care Development Block Grants that help child care providers and make sure families can cover tuition; increases the amount of child and dependent care expenses that are eligible for the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit to $8,000 for a qualifying individual and $16,000 for two or more individuals

  • Small Business Grants: Increases PPP funding and eligibility by $7.25 billion, creates a restaurant revitalization fund with $25 billion, and provides $15 billion for COVID-19 emergency grants that go to small businesses

  • Transit Assistance: Invests in transit systems by providing $30 billion to prevent, prepare, and respond to the continued threat of the pandemic

  • Funding for Broadband: Provides $7.6 billion to expand internet connectivity to students and communities

Explaining her own vote to her constituents in Seattle, Progressive Caucus chair Pramila Jayapal said this morning that "Families throughout Washington and across our country have spent months desperately trying to hang on during an unprecedented public health and economic crisis that has left millions struggling to put food on the table, keep the heat on, pay the rent, and withstand this devastation. I am proud to have fought to ensure that this relief package puts money directly in people’s pockets by defeating restrictive efforts to lower survival check income thresholds and successfully including a $15 minimum wage. By passing aid that expands unemployment assistance, increases the child tax credit, crushes the virus by investing in vaccine distribution, supports childcare facilities and the families who depend on them, funds nutrition and rental assistance, helps small businesses, and provides robust state and local funding, we are sending a clear message to Americans everywhere that we see you, we hear you, and we are going to fight for you so our country gets through this together."

Too much for Golden and Schrader? Why are they Democrats? Mondaire Jones is a freshman Democrat from upstate New York, who, like Golden, is in his 30s with a long career ahead of him. Unlike Golden, he is completely clear about which side he's on and this morning told his constituents in Rockland and Westchester counties that "this package must be the floor-- not the ceiling. We cannot afford to go small-- the only fiscally and morally responsible option is to provide the financial relief that families need now. The American people are suffering. Too many have fallen into poverty, face eviction, and are struggling to put food on the table. Small businesses-- the backbone of our communities-- are closing at horrifying rates. Our families deserve a $15 minimum wage. Our families deserve $50,000 in student debt cancellation. And our families deserve $2,000 monthly survival checks for the duration of the pandemic. Anything short of that fails to fully meet the enormous scale of our ongoing economic crisis."

Blue America is proud to have endorsed and raised campaign contributions for Mondaire Jones and for Pramila Jayapal. Both always show themselves to be a vigorous and visionary leaders in Congress. Golden was a colossal mistake and we will work towards correcting that mistake, hopefully in the very near future.

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