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Nancy Pelosi speaking at the Ireland Funds 28th National Gala dinner at the National Building Museum in Washington D.C. on March 11, 2020.

Nancy Pelosi speaking at the Ireland Funds 28th National Gala dinner at the National Building Museum in Washington D.C. on March 11, 2020. (Photo: Niall Carson/PA Images via Getty Images)

Refusal by Pelosi to Consider Universal Cash Payments in Response to Coronavirus Pandemic 'Maddening,' Say Progressives

"This is a total failure of Democratic Party leadership."

Eoin Higgins

Progressives erupted with frustration and anger Wednesday over days of reporting that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would not consider cash payments for Americans without means-testing despite the ongoing coronavirus outbreak that has ground the U.S. economy almost to a standstill. 

President Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans have taken the opportunity to outflank Pelosi and House Democrats on the payments, leading to anger from the left.

"I truly don't know how to describe how maddening it is that Republicans and Trump officials are to the left of Congressional Dem leadership on this issue," tweeted activist Jordan Uhl. 

Direct cash payments would be a salve to the gaping wound left in the U.S. economy by the pandemic.

"We are the wealthiest nation in human history, and have the lowest borrowing costs of any major government on the planet, and thus, can easily afford to contain the pandemic and keep our people well provisioned simultaneously," Eric Levitz wrote Tuesday for New York Magazine. "All we need is for Congress to overcome its superstitions about deficits, and supply the economy with the many trillions of dollars in stimulus that even many center-right economists say we need."

As the crisis has deepened, the political ground on cash payments has shifted substantitally, with bipartisan Congressional support for the proposal.

As the Washington Post reported, proposals from the White House and Pelosi both have some restrictions, though the California Democrat's plan appears more complicated:

On Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told congressional Republicans that the White House was putting together a package that would send out $250 billion in checks by the end of April, though they would be means-tested to some degree, meaning wealthier families wouldn't get them.

[...]

Separately, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) supports a more targeted approach to those hit hardest by any economic downturn, as opposed to money sent to every American, and Pelosi wants this done via refundable tax credits, expanded unemployment, and possibly direct cash payments as well.

"Nancy Pelosi is officially to the right of Tom Cotton on economic support for American families," HuffPost reporter Zach Carter tweeted on Sunday. "This is a total failure of Democratic Party leadership."

Pelosi's deputy chief of staff Drew Hammill on Twitter Tuesday emphasized that any aid "MUST be targeted" for the Speaker to approve it, drawing further anger from the left.

"Why?" asked New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie. "If we agree that the crisis is stark and immediate, and we know that precise targeting takes time and administrative effort, why make that a requirement when you can simply disburse the funds *now* and collect from high-income recipients *later*?"

New Consensus president Saikat Chakrabarti was flabbergasted at Pelosi's resistance to payments for all Americans.

"This crazy obsession in Dem leadership with looking 'reasonable' by not 'doing too much' is about as impractical and insane as you can get in the face of a pandemic," Chakrabarti tweeted.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, has proposed a $2 trillion package including direct payments to Americans. Journalist Walker Bragman on Wednesday noted the absurdity of Trump being closer to Sanders on relief than Democratic leadership.

"Trump, who bungled the early response to coronavirus, is starting to take actions resembling Bernie Sanders' proposals—monthly checks, ramping up production via the Defense Production Act, freezing foreclosures and evictions," said Bragman. "All while Dems push things like tax rebates. Baffling."


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