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Hundreds of unemployed Kentucky residents wait in long lines outside the Kentucky Career Center for help with their unemployment claims on June 19, 2020 in Frankfort, Kentucky. (Photo: John Sommers II/Getty Images)

Progressive Caucus Demands Democrats Reject GOP Plan to 'Unleash Widespread Suffering' on the American People

"The Republican proposal is nothing less than a policy of mass evictions, mass homelessness, mass poverty, and mass hunger."

Jake Johnson

The leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus on Tuesday condemned the Senate GOP's new coronavirus stimulus proposal as a "policy of mass evictions, mass homelessness, mass poverty, and mass hunger" that Democrats must unequivocally reject in favor of increased protections for frontline workers and the unemployed.

"Millions of Americans are on the brink of complete economic devastation as Covid-19 cases and joblessness claims continue to rise, and yet the Republican response is to dramatically hollow out unemployment and housing protections in the midst of a pandemic," Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), co-chairs of the CPC, said in a statement.

"The American people can't afford half-measures—we must do better for the millions of families who are counting on us."
—Reps. Pramila Jayapal and Mark Pocan, Congressional Progressive Caucus

"For more than 30 million unemployed Americans, the Republican proposal would amount to $400 less in critical relief every week as many families are already stretching resources to put food on the table, pay the bills, and make ends meet," Jayapal and Pocan added. "All the while, big corporations would be shielded from any responsibility or liability for endangering the wellbeing of the public."

The CPC leaders are urging Democrats in Congress to counter the GOP's business-friendly opening offer by demanding an extension of the $600-per-week boost in unemployment benefits, a moratorium on utility shut-offs, and strong housing protections to prevent a wave of evictions.

Last Friday, as Common Dreams reported, an eviction moratorium covering those who live in homes with federally backed mortgages expired, leaving more than 12 million people at risk of being forced onto the streets.

"We should also ensure that this latest bill does not become a free-for-all for corporations looking for bailouts, handouts, and liability shields, and prevent profiteering off the virus and people's pain," said Jayapal and Pocan, referring to the GOP's proposal to protect businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits for five years.

"Instead of shielding corporations, we should be ensuring that all essential workers are protected and states have access to increased PPE and testing supplies," Jayapal and Pocan said. "The American people can't afford half-measures—we must do better for the millions of families who are counting on us."

The CPC statement came shortly after House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) suggested in a CNN interview Tuesday that the GOP's proposed reduction of the $600-per-week federal boost in unemployment benefits would not be a deal-breaker for Democratic negotiators.

"Look, it's not $600 or bust," said Hoyer. "[House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi said the other day, which I thought was a great line: 'We don't have red lines, we have values.' We're going into these negotiations with values."

After his remarks kicked up immediate backlash from progressives, Hoyer tweeted that "we do not have red lines, we have values, and we are going to negotiate our values."

"Dems passed the Heroes Act and extended the additional $600 per week," wrote Hoyer. "That is our position. I hope Republicans will join us in providing that, instead of telling Americans: you're on your own."

Progressive congressional candidate Alex Morse, who is challenging Rep. Richard Neal in Massachusetts' September 1 Democratic primary, was among those criticizing Hoyer's suggestion that Democrats would be willing to cut a deal with the GOP on unemployment benefits.

"This isn't $600 or bust. This is food on the table or bust. This is rent or bust," Morse tweeted. "Let's not compromise for scraps and call it a win. This is a fight for our lives and we need Democrats to hold the line."


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