House progressives on Friday fell short of defeating a procedural rule that sets the stage for a final vote on the HEROES Act, meaning the 1,815-page coronavirus relief bill that has been criticized as woefully inadequate is almost certain to pass later in the day.
Fourteen House Democrats—including nine members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus—voted against the procedural rule: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Pramila Jayapal (Wash.), Mark Pocan (Wis.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), Ro Khanna (Calif.), Katie Porter (Calif.), Jesús García (Ill.), Conor Lamb (Penn.), Abigail Spanberger (Va.), Abby Finkenauer (Iowa), Cindy Axne (Iowa), and Haley Stevens (Mich.).
"I believe we can and must do better. This is urgent and the American people cannot wait. We must choose differently."
—Rep. Pramila JayapalFollowing the procedural vote, Jayapal, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, vowed in a statement to vote against the HEROES Act itself.
"While this legislation has some good elements, it ultimately fails to match the scale of this crisis," said Jayapal. "I believe we can and must do better. This is urgent and the American people cannot wait. We must choose differently."
The Washington Democrat lamented that the sprawling legislation does not include a federal paycheck guarantee to stem mass layoffs or an expansion of Medicare to provide desperately needed health coverage to the millions of newly unemployed and uninsured.
"We are in the midst of a health pandemic that has already taken more than 86,000 lives, with tens of thousands more deaths projected," said Jayapal. "Now, more than ever, people need to know their access to healthcare is guaranteed."
Reps. Ro Khanna, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Pramila Jayapal on Friday became the first four House Democrats to pledge to vote against a procedural rule paving the way for passage of the HEROES Act, warning that the bill does not meet the scale of either the coronavirus pandemic or the ongoing economic calamity.
"FDR didn't talk about employer retirement accounts. LBJ didn't talk about voting rights in some precincts. They would have scoffed at COBRA to private companies."
—Rep. Ro Khanna
"We have a healthcare crisis yet no expansion of Medicaid or Medicare," tweeted Khanna, the first House Democrat to announce his opposition. "FDR didn't talk about employer retirement accounts. LBJ didn't talk about voting rights in some precincts."
"They would have scoffed at COBRA to private companies," Khanna added, referring to the HEROES Act's subsidies for an expensive healthcare program that allows people to remain on their employer-provided insurance plan.
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Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, followed Khanna with a pair of tweets announcing her opposition to the procedural rule.
"We have proposed holistic solutions that will help us avoid a piecemeal approach to relief," said Omar. "This unprecedented crisis needs us to show leadership today, not tomorrow."
I’m a no on today’s rule vote.
In the biggest crisis since the Great Depression, we should be leading with bold ideas that meet the scale of the crisis.
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) May 15, 2020
A spokesperson for Ocasio-Cortez told HuffPost's Daniel Marans that the New York Democrat also plans to vote no on the rule.
Jayapal, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), said she intends to vote against the procedural rule but stressed that she is not expressing an official CPC position nor whipping caucus members to do the same.
David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress, which has criticized the HEROES Act, said the progressive objections to the bill may make for a close vote:
Unusually formidable Dem opposition to the HEROES rule. Will be close vote.
— David Segal (@DavidSegalRI) May 15, 2020
CPC leaders believe they need 18 no votes to block the rule allowing debate on the HEROES Act, a massive 1,815-page coronavirus relief bill that excludes many key progressive priorities—from a paycheck guarantee to monthly cash payments for U.S. households.
"Our nation needs Democrats to fight for relief that meets that massive need of this unprecedented crisis," progressive activist Kai Newkirk said in a statement. "Progressives across the country must act to demand that our representatives join this #PeoplesBailoutBloc and use their power to deliver the real relief for all now."