Rep. Pramila Jayapal, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, voiced her disapproval of House Democrats' newly unveiled coronavirus relief package in a series of tweets late Tuesday, calling the 1,815-page bill insufficient to match the scale of the unprecedented economic and public health crisis that the United States is currently facing.
Jayapal, a Washington Democrat, warned that the HEROES Act would not do nearly enough to stem nationwide layoffs or ensure healthcare coverage for the millions of people who have been thrown off their employer-provided insurance plans.
"I am ready and willing to make this legislation better. We need a full conversation and an open process so we can address this crisis before it gets worse—because if we fail to do so at this moment, it will."
—Rep. Pramila Jayapal
"With more than 33 million people filing for unemployment in seven weeks, workers are looking for certainty about how we end mass unemployment and how they'll get their next paycheck," Jayapal wrote. "This legislation doesn't end mass unemployment and it doesn't get paychecks back into their pockets."
Nor does the bill "ensure affordable healthcare for everyone," said Jayapal, who advocated expanding Medicare to cover the unemployed and uninsured—a proposal that was left out of the package in favor of expensive COBRA subsidies, which critics denounced as a handout to the private insurance industry.
"With 35 million at risk of losing their healthcare and 87 million uninsured or underinsured," Jayapal wrote, "people are looking for certainty about whether they'll be able to see a doctor and receive care—during a pandemic no less."
The Washington Democrat also warned that the bill does not do enough to help small businesses facing imminent collapse. "With millions of businesses not getting relief from [the Paycheck Protection Program], business owners are looking for certainty about how they’ll avoid closing permanently w/o jeopardizing the wellbeing of workers," said Jayapal. "This bill doesn’t tie funding to the basic public health guidelines required to do just that."
"The historic crisis Americans are facing will not end on its own," Jayapal added. "To end it, these three things—getting people paychecks, ensuring access to healthcare, supporting businesses and their workers—are critical. But this legislation does not yet address them at the scale necessary."
I am ready and willing to make this legislation better. We need a full conversation and an open process so we can address this crisis before it gets worse—because if we fail to do so at this moment, it will.— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) May 13, 2020
During a Democratic caucus call Monday evening ahead of the bill's introduction, Jayapal reportedly confronted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) over the exclusion of a paycheck guarantee proposal that would have provided businesses with grants to keep workers employed amid the coronavirus crisis. The proposal was widely praised by progressives and unions leaders and reportedly had broad support among House Democrats.
Jayapal also criticized the way in which the massive bill was assembled—largely behind closed doors and with little input from rank-and-file members, who are currently in their home districts.
In a letter to Pelosi late Tuesday, Jayapal and her fellow Progressive Caucus co-chair Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) demanded that the planned Friday vote on the legislation be pushed back so members can fully examine the mammoth legislation and propose changes.
Politico reported that Congressional Progressive Caucus members have "been advised to say they're 'undecided' when party leaders conduct a whip check."
"Under no circumstances are we ready to vote on the bill this week," Jayapal told Politico.