The Congressional Progressive Caucus is calling on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to meet the coronavirus crisis with the urgency it deserves by advancing another sweeping stimulus package that—unlike the previous business-friendly legislation—guarantees economic security for all, protects public health, and ensures election safety.
"Our actions now can lay the foundation for a just and resilient recovery, but only if we recognize the scale of this unprecedented crisis and fashion a response that meets that scale," the two dozen members of the CPC Executive Board wrote in a letter (pdf) sent to Pelosi on Thursday.
With the U.S. economy rapidly deteriorating as the coronavirus continues to spread—nearly 17 million Americans filed jobless claims between March 15 and April 4—the CPC urged Pelosi to quickly assemble a relief package that provides robust assistance to workers and the unemployed until the coronavirus pandemic completely subsides.
To ensure that Americans will not have to wait for further congressional action if the economic and public health crisis deepens, the CPC called for a legislative package that contains automatic triggers so that "assistance continues based on economic conditions throughout the duration of the pandemic."
CPC's list of specific demands includes:
- Monthly direct cash payments of at least $2,000 to every adult in the U.S., and an additional $1,000 for every child for up to a year;
- A nationwide moratorium on all evictions and foreclosures;
- At least $30,000 in student debt relief;
- Suspending collection of all consumer debt, including medical debt;
- Opening Medicare to all people who are unemployed and uninsured;
- Ensuring that no one in the U.S. faces out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 treatment;
- Increasing federal nutrition assistance benefits;
- Creating a "federal Paycheck Guarantee program" to stop mass layoffs; and
- Guaranteeing nationwide vote-by-mail to make sure elections don't contribute to the spread of COVID-19.
Read the CPC's full letter to Pelosi below:
CPC's letter came as Pelosi signaled Thursday that she may not return the House to session before the end of April.
Because the Speaker and other congressional leaders have refused to allow lawmakers to vote remotely, keeping the House on recess could significantly delay or prevent passage of another major stimulus package. Unanimous consent would be required for the passage of any legislation while the House is out of session.
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"We're not there yet, and we're not going to be there no matter how many letters somebody sends in—with all the respect in the world for that," Pelosi said of remote voting during a call with reporters Thursday, expressing concerns about the security of the process.
In a series of tweets on Wednesday, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), one of the signatories of the CPC letter to Pelosi, said arguments against remote voting don't "hold up to reality."
"Congress has to remain operational through national disasters," said Khanna. "We need remote voting to ensure our democracy remains functional."
As Common Dreams reported Thursday, progressive advocacy groups are warning Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) against accepting "severely inadequate half-measures" proposed by Republicans and the Trump White House.
Senate Democrats Thursday morning blocked an attempt by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to ram through a GOP-crafted measure that would have provided an additional $250 billion for a faltering small business loan program but no direct relief for workers or the unemployed.
Senate Republicans subsequently blocked Democrats' alternative legislation, which would have provided the $250 billion for small businesses as well as additional funding for hospitals, states, and federal nutrition assistance.
Progressives slammed the Democratic counter-offer as woefully insufficient and urged Pelosi and Schumer to use whatever leverage they have left to advance a sweeping relief package that puts people first, not corporations.
"We need more from Democratic leaders," Indivisible, MoveOn, and Community Change Action said in a joint statement Wednesday. "We call on Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer to use the profound power they hold in this moment to provide solutions that will save lives and help families survive this crisis."