Moderate Democrats Pressure Pelosi On Unemployment, Coronavirus Relief

Johnny Nguyen 17:15

A faction of House Democrats don't want to keep holding out for a better deal.

WASHINGTON — A group of roughly two dozen Democrats is pressuring House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to take the GOP coronavirus stimulus offer, even if it’s far short of current Democratic proposals.

Some of the members have taken to sending Pelosi a form text, asking her to not send members home before the House has passed a bipartisan deal.

“Madame Speaker: With respect, we must meet the moment and cannot leave Washington without passing a BIPARTISAN covid relief bill. Thank you for your understanding and leadership,” the form text reads. 

Members seem to prefer Pelosi taking the $1.6 trillion offer that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin proposed over no deal at all, though one member involved in the campaign said lawmakers weren’t necessarily insisting that Pelosi take the current GOP offer — just that she not send members home without reaching an agreement.

The moderate push comes at a high-stakes moment, with the economic recovery from springtime coronavirus lockdowns possibly losing steam and a presidential election just a month away. Republicans could lose control of both the Senate and the White House and would likely benefit electorally from a stronger economy, but all of a sudden, they’ve soured on extra spending. 

Pelosi and Mnuchin have been going back and forth over the last few days on a potential coronavirus stimulus. But talks don’t seem to be bringing the two sides much closer. While Pelosi delayed a vote Wednesday on a scaled-down coronavirus relief bill, she quickly rescheduled the vote for Thursday evening after it was clear Mnuchin and the Trump administration wouldn’t be coming up significantly from their $1.6 trillion offer.

But some lawmakers seem to believe the current offer is good enough, or that it’s at least preferable to nothing. Mnuchin’s proposal includes many of the top priorities of the Democratic bill, but with less money behind them. 

Democrats want to extend through January the extra $600 unemployment benefit that Congress allowed to lapse in July. Mnuchin’s offer would set the benefit at $400 ― more than Republicans have previously offered, but not enough for Pelosi. 

But $400 would still be more than Congress has ever added to state-funded benefits in the history of unemployment insurance. In the midst of the Great Recession, lawmakers boosted state benefits by just $25. 

There’s probably no other policy more effective for alleviating material suffering and stimulating the economy, since jobless workers spend the benefits quickly on necessities like food and shelter. Losing the extra benefits significantly affected Americans’ disposable income in August. 

Democrats and Republicans have been deadlocked over a number of other issues, including state and local aid, liability protections for businesses that reopen during the pandemic, and education funding.

And Pelosi has asked Mnuchin to clarify a few different sticking points, though the two sides seem much further apart than just a few sticking points. But moderates are hoping Pelosi will take their message to heart and continue negotiating.

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