Progressive Democratic lawmakers are calling for stimulus checks in the latest relief package, a provision that, so far, is unlikely to be included.
“COVID relief needs to directly help everyday people,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said in a tweet on Friday. “People need stimulus checks and UI [unemployment insurance].”
Ocasio-Cortez was joined by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) urging for a second round of direct payments to be sent to Americans as part of the next phase of stimulus.
Democrats, Republicans, and the White House all supported another round in earlier talks on a relief deal. But the popular provision is missing from both the $908 billion bipartisan proposal — backed by Democratic leaders — and the $500 billion package introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
In a statement on Friday, Sanders called the bipartisan proposal “unacceptable” because it “does not even do what the CARES Act did and provide, at the very least, a $1,200 direct payment to working class Americans and $500 for their kids.”
“Tens of millions of Americans living in desperation today would receive absolutely no financial help from this proposal,” Sanders said. “That is not acceptable.”
Omar echoed those sentiments in a tweet on Friday, while two other members of ‘the Squad’ — Tlaib and Pressley — even suggested the payments should be recurring, with Tlaib saying they should be “monthly” in a tweet on Thursday.
Under the CARES Act, around 160 million Americans received a stimulus payment of up to $1,200 — plus $500 for any child dependent — amounting to over $270 billion out of the $2.2 trillion relief package passed in March.
‘Work time is over, finalizing time is here’
President-elect Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have all supported the $2.2 trillion HEROES Act, which includes a second round of stimulus checks.
“I think it would be better if they had the $1,200,” he said at a press conference on Friday. “I understand this may be still in play.”
But with limited time left in the lame-duck session, Democrats have moved to support a smaller price tag to get a deal done before inauguration day, with the hope of passing another in 2021. Pelosi said on Friday: “This package would be just a start.”
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But lawmakers have little time before Congress adjourns to pass an omnibus spending bill and a stimulus deal —which could be attached to each other. Adding a new item like stimulus checks may complicate the negotiations, according to Mark Harkins, a former Democratic congressional staffer and a senior fellow at Georgetown’s Government Affairs Institute.
“I don’t think it helps. At this late point in negotiations, any new item that does not have bipartisan support slows down the process, a process that has no time to spare,” he told Yahoo Money. “Work time is over, finalizing time is here.”