Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

'A Staggeringly Bad Idea': Outrage as Pelosi Pushes Tax Rule That Would 'Kneecap the Progressive Agenda'

"This is a very bad idea, House Democrats. It makes no sense whatsoever to give Republicans veto power over progressive legislation."

Jake Johnson

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) holds a news conference following the 2018 midterm elections at the Capitol Building on November 7, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

Nearly three-quarters of the American public and a historic number of Democratic lawmakers support Medicare for All, but the House Democratic leadership is considering using its newly won majority to impose a rule that would "recklessly betray" the grassroots forces that put them in power by making single-payer and other progressive priorities impossible to enact.

"Equating support for middle-class families—with opposition to increasing their tax rates—is a conservative project, which Democrats have no business advancing."
—Eric Levitz, New York Magazine

According to a list of Democratic proposals obtained by the Washington Post, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)—who is currently fighting back against efforts to prevent her from becoming House Speaker—is pushing for a rule that would "require a three-fifths supermajority to raise individual income taxes on the lowest-earning 80 percent of taxpayers."

In response, MoveOn.org called the proposal "a staggeringly bad idea."

Though the proposed rule is framed as an effort to protect the financial well-being of middle class Americans, Eric Levitz of New York Magazine pointed out that "while progressives are committed to increasing the discretionary income of the bottom 80 percent, that does not necessarily mean keeping their tax rates frozen at historically low levels."

"A bill that required those households to pay a new, smaller monthly sum to the government—so as to fund a single-payer system that would actually reduce their cost of living by delivering radically cheaper healthcare services—could hardly be called regressive," Levitz notes. "And the same can be said for legislation establishing universal child care, paid family leave, or any other program aimed at easing the middle class's financial burdens."

"Equating support for middle-class families—with opposition to increasing their tax rates—is a conservative project, which Democrats have no business advancing," Levitz added. "If the party wishes to establish structural barriers to policies that would hurt the middle class, why not require a three-fifths majority to cut Medicaid, Medicare, or Social Security?"

Combined with Pelosi's expressed committment to reviving the "economically illiterate" pay-go rule—which would require that all new spending be offset by spending cuts or tax hikes—the proposed tax restriction would completely undercut Medicare for All, free public college, a federal jobs program, and other ambitious left-wing policies by dramatically restricting the party's ability to raise revenue and effectively handing Republicans the power to block progressive legislation.

"It would be a profound mistake for House Democrats to retake Congress with dozens of candidates who ran on Medicare for All and then pass an absurd, right-wing framed rule that would actively prevent us from taking action on it."
—Democracy for America

"This is disastrous policy and messaging," argued Richard Phillips, senior tax policy analyst for the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP).

The proposed rule, Phillips added, would constrain "revenue that can be generated for many of the kind of bold investments we need to be making in terms of healthcare, education, infrastructure, etc."

Progressive advocacy groups and experts registered their outrage at Pelosi's rule proposal on social media on Friday, with economist Stephanie Kelton warning that the Democratic leader's measure would completely "kneecap the progressive agenda."

"This is a very bad idea, House Democrats," CREDO Mobile declared. "It makes no sense whatsoever to give Republicans veto power over progressive legislation."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Please select a donation method:

Poll: Overwhelming Majority of US Voters Want Robust Regulation of Tech Companies

"When it comes to Big Tech's monopoly power and surveillance business model, the public is unified: They want action. They want to see the Big Tech companies broken up and users' privacy protected."

Brett Wilkins ·


228 Republicans Blasted for Brief Urging Supreme Court to Overturn Roe v. Wade

"Every single politician who signed this amicus brief is actively working to strip away our fundamental freedoms and endanger pregnant people and families across the country."

Jessica Corbett ·


'Historic Victory': Bayer to End US Residential Sales of Glyphosate-Based Herbicides

"As agricultural, large-scale use of this toxic pesticide continues, our farmworkers remain at risk. It's time for EPA to act and ban glyphosate for all uses."

Kenny Stancil ·


73 Major Corporations Paid Just 5.3% Federal Tax Rate Between 2018 and 2020: Report

Thirty-nine other companies paid no federal corporate tax during the three-year period, in which they collectively reaped over $120 billion in profits.

Brett Wilkins ·


Biden Asks Congress to Act to Prevent Evictions—Just 3 Days Before Moratorium Expires

"These calls should have come weeks ago, not 72 hours before the moratorium expires."

Jake Johnson ·