In an impassioned speech on the House floor Friday just ahead of a vote on the Senate-passed coronavirus stimulus bill, New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said Republican senators should be ashamed of fighting for the inclusion of trillions of dollars in corporate bailout money while providing little more than "crumbs for our families."
"There should be shame about what was fought for in this bill and the choices that we have to make."
—Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
"We have to go into this vote eyes wide open," Ocasio-Cortez said. "What did the Senate majority fight for? One of the largest corporate bailouts, with as few strings as possible, in American history. Shameful."
Noting that she represents desperate communities in New York City—now the epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus pandemic—Ocasio-Cortez excoriated Republican leaders for presenting lawmakers with an impossible choice: Do nothing for people in dire need of financial assistance or provide a small amount of relief alongside massive bailouts for large corporations.
"The greed of that fight is wrong," said the New York Democrat. "And the option that we have is to either let them suffer with nothing, or to allow this greed and billions of dollars—which will be leveraged into trillions of dollars—to contribute to the largest income inequality gap in our future. There should be shame about what was fought for in this bill and the choices that we have to make."
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With the vote on the bill expected later Friday, Ocasio-Cortez seemed to indicate she would vote in favor of it but clearly signaled—as have other progressives both inside and outside of Congress—that much more must be done to meet the urgent health and financial needs of the American people and vulnerable populations with additional legislation in the near future.
"Though the CARES Act will alleviate hardship for millions, it does not fully protect U.S. workers and their families from the economic consequences of the coronavirus, and it will not set the stage for the economy to reboot quickly once the public health crisis ends," said Thea M. Lee, president of the Economic Policy Institute, in a statement on Friday.
"Further help from policymakers will clearly be needed and should address these urgent gaps in scale and design," Lee added. "And we should keep in mind that deep and permanent structural reforms are needed in our social safety net, health care system, emergency preparedness, and worker protections, well beyond the immediate crisis response."