Fearing that a COVID relief package would not pass the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) split the $900 billion aid bill off of a $1.4 trillion omnibus bill after progressives objected to millions in spending to buoy corporations and large-scale industries, but just $600 checks for most individual taxpayers.
“The House of Representatives, in what could be a foreshadowing of things to come in the next Congress, split the coronavirus relief and government funding legislation passed Monday into two separate votes — allowing members to vote against the part that included military and Homeland Security funding without putting the package carrying the economic stimulus money in jeopardy,” Fox News reported.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) was the bill’s most vocal detractor, tweeting her displeasure at having just half a day to read the final COVID-omnibus bill set before the House was expected to vote on the measure, but both Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) voted no on the omnibus spending bill and the final coronavirus relief bill, citing concerns about funding for the Defense department and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement in the omnibus.
Other members of the “Squad,” including Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) also voted against the omnibus spending bill.
Pelosi was never in danger of losing the vote, Fox News points out, but if the bills had been combined, the number of “no” votes would have been a shocking embarrassment to the Speaker, who is reportedly marshaling support behind the scenes to retain her leadership role.
Reports last week indicated the progressives, including Ocasio-Cortez, were being pressured to extract concessions from Pelosi before voting to return her to the Speaker post, even though she was nominated to retain her position back in November, following the presidential election. Come January, she will also preside over a much smaller majority; Democrats, expected to win big on November 3rd instead lost most contested races to Republican challengers, leaving many questioning Pelosi’s ability to marshal and control her caucus.
ABC News reported, back in November, that Democrats were “grappling” with the losses after Pelosi promised wins.
Progressive legislators also noted yesterday that Pelosi’s final coronavirus relief package was significantly smaller than a piece of “compromise” legislation offered by the White House ahead of the November presidential election.
CNN notes that Pelosi blamed Republicans, not her own team, for the delays and the small individual checks headed to most American taxpayers, but others, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), pointed out that Pelosi could have easily had a better deal back in October but chose to malign the White House instead — and that the final coronavirus bill was based on negotiations completed back in July.
“I said back in July what the country needed was a package roughly of a trillion dollars focused on kids in school, small businesses, health care providers, and direct cash payments,” McConnell said Tuesday morning. “We started advocating that in July and August. The talks were unproductive, so I essentially put that bill on the floor of the Senate in both September and October. Not a single Democrat supported it. Their view was, give us everything we want or we won’t give you anything.”
“It’s noteworthy.” he continued, “that at the end they finally gave us what we could have agreed to back in July. I think what held it up was they did not want to do anything before the presidential election. I think they felt that would disadvantage the president.”