Last Night's Non-Survival Bill

Although, only Rashida Tlaib had the intestinal fortitude to actually vote against the $600 non-survival check Monday night, there were 4 progressives who sent Pelosi a little message by voting against the rule that allowed a vote to take place at all:

  • AOC (NY)

  • Rashida Tlaib (MI)

  • Ayanna Pressley (MA)

  • Ilhan Omar (MN)

The rule passed 227-180 with 22 non-voters. Pelosi didn't need the Squad votes on this because it's still the 116th Congress voting-- with her big majority-- and because 21 Republicans were among the 22 non-voters. But, as Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman noted this morning at Politico, it will be different in January and the 117th Congress. "In a world where Pelosi has a narrow majority, if this group sticks together, they can influence the direction of the House Democratic Caucus. This message was received by senior Democrats last night."

So... Rashida was the only Democrat to vote no in the House. (Thank her here.) And every Senate Democrat decided the right strategy was to vote for it too. Bernie, minutes after the vote last night: "Tonight, Congress passed a $908-billion COVID-19 relief bill that extends unemployment benefits through the early spring, and provides support for small businesses, schools, healthcare, nutrition, rental assistance, child care, broadband, the Postal Service, as well as funding to help distribute vaccines. During the last several weeks, I have been working very hard, along with Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, to provide direct payments to working families throughout the country. Our goal was to replicate what was in the CARES bill of March, which was $1200 for every working-class adult and $500 for each child. While we did not get as much as we wanted, because of opposition from the Republican leadership and too many Democrats, the bill does include a $600 direct payment for every working-class American earning less than $75,000 a year, and a $1,200 direct payment for couples making less than $150,000 a year, plus $600 for each child. That means that the average family of four will receive a direct payment of $2400. While including these direct payments ultimately improved this bill, given the enormous economic desperation that so many working families across this country are now experiencing, there is no question but that this legislation did not go anywhere near far enough."

Bernie concluded with the hope that somehow, things will get better when Biden is sitting in the Oval Office, which is kind of far-fetched, considering that the forever roadblock was-- and will be-- McConnell and that Trump actually seems more interested in sending bigger direct payments than Biden does. "When President-Elect Biden assumes office next month and when the Senate comes back into session in January," promised Bernie, "I will immediately begin fighting for another relief bill to help America’s working families-- including another round of direct payments and more relief for the unemployed, the hungry, the uninsured and those who owe back rent and are behind on their mortgage payments. In this unprecedented crisis, it is imperative that we do everything we can to protect the working families of our country, the elderly, the children and the poor."

Pramila Jayapal seems to have made a similar calculation-- i.e., something is better than nothing for hard-pressed families, even if the something is hardly adequate. Early this morning, she told me that she voted for the rule and for the bill that has the pandemic relief package. "I voted against the bill that appropriated money for Defense and homeland security. It is outrageous to appropriate $750 billion for the Pentagon and billions more for Homeland Security at a time when we are giving a mere $600 survival checks to each person. Our priorities should be to put money in people’s pockets and get relief here, not to continue to fund unaccountable departments with waste, fraud and abuse, endless wars, or unnecessary border walls."

Right after the vote she had sent her Seattle constituents a fuller explanation about why she voted the way she had:

Just one week ago, this COVID-19 package cruelly failed to include survival checks to help families across Washington and throughout the country put food on the table, keep the heat on, make rent, pay the bills and withstand this crisis. I am proud to have led progressives in uniting to say that any package must include relief checks and enhanced unemployment assistance-- the two most effective ways to put money directly in people’s pockets.
Our advocacy on behalf of the millions who are screaming out for help secured these critical provisions. This relief package also includes rental and nutrition assistance, aid for small businesses and support for schools, health care, child care and broadband. Additionally, it renews eviction moratoriums and sets aside funding to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine. Importantly, it also finally makes mixed-status families eligible for survival checks and ensures they can retroactively receive the relief check that they were previously excluded from.
While I am glad that progressives were able to dramatically improve the package by securing survival checks and removing an anti-worker corporate handout, we must be clear that this is only the very beginning. Congress’ top priority in the new year needs to be to urgently work with the Biden-Harris administration to pass a robust relief bill that actually meets the scale of this devastating crisis. At the heart of it must be putting money in people’s pockets, keeping people in their homes, sending grants to businesses to cover payroll and rehire workers, guaranteeing health care-- including the vaccine-- to everyone and making bold investments in states, cities and local communities across America.
This unprecedented devastation demands an unprecedented response. It demands a response that gives certainty and security to the single parents and families who write to me as they try to make ends meet without nearly enough help. It demands a response that lifts up working people and the small businesses they power. And it demands a response that ensures people can not only survive but thrive. Today’s package is a first step-- and an important bridge to the start of a new administration-- but I will not allow it to be the last.

Morris Pearl, the Chair of the Patriotic Millionaires issued a blunter statement: "Some relief is better than no relief, but it's pathetic that this is the best Congress can do. The American people desperately need direct aid, yet this bill offers only watered-down unemployment benefits and stimulus checks, and no financial support for state and local governments. The American people deserve better than $600 and a $300 unemployment boost, and the government can easily afford to give it to them. It is absurd that half of Congress, led by Mitch McConnell, has decided we can't give more relief to people just because of some misguided notion about limiting government spending. Jumping through hoops to keep a relief package below $1 trillion is shortsighted and idiotic when our economy is on life support, with millions of Americans are unemployed and unable to provide for their families. It is ludicrous that any lawmaker could look at the dual economic and public health disasters this country is facing and decide that their biggest priority should be shrinking the national debt."

I wonder at what point Democrats would have told the increasingly hated and distrusted Pelosi to take the Frankenstein's monster of a bill she worked out with Mnuchin and McConnell and shove it. How about if the direct payment check was $100 instead of $600? $50? $20? A buck and a quarter? Would that have been enough for Democrats to stand up and just say no to this conservative non-compromise?

As for The Squad being able to really influence the direction of the Democratic Party... well, we'll see what happens when Cori Bush (MO), Mondaire Jones (NY), Marie Newman (IL), Nikema Williams (GA) and Jamaal Bowman (NY) get sworn in next month.