Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) speaks to reporters in Statuary Hall on Capital Hill on Tuesday, January 12, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Ilhan Omar Warns Progressives Will Revolt If Dems 'Poison' Relief Bill by Curbing Eligibility for $1,400 Checks

"Democrats with a slim majority in the Congress can't pass this bill without progressives and must resist suggestions that will ultimately tank this relief bill."

Jake Johnson

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota warned Sunday that conservative Democrats' ongoing effort to further restrict eligibility for the new round of $1,400 direct payments risks shedding progressive support for a final coronavirus relief package—votes that the party, clinging to narrow majorities in the House and Senate, can't afford to lose.

"Cutting the income cap will poison this bill," tweeted Omar (D-Minn.), the whip for the nearly 100-member Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC). "It already lacks Republicans support and will lose progressive support. Democrats with a slim majority in the Congress can't pass this bill without progressives and must resist suggestions that will ultimately tank this relief bill."

"Cutting the income cap will poison this bill. It already lacks Republicans support and will lose progressive support."
—Rep. Ilhan Omar
Omar was referring to ongoing talks among Senate Democrats over whether to lower the annual income cutoff for the new round of relief checks with the stated goal of ensuring the payments are more closely "targeted" to those in need. According to the Washington Post, top Democrats are currently weighing a plan under which only individuals earning $50,000 a year or less, heads of household earning $75,000 or less, and married couples earning a combined $100,000 or less would be eligible for full $1,400 payments.

A growing chorus of progressive lawmakers is strongly pushing back against that proposed eligibility framework, which could leave millions of struggling middle-class people with smaller checks or no payments at all.

"There are some Dems who want to lower the income eligibility for direct payments from $75,000 to $50,000 for individuals, and $150,000 to $100,000 for couples. In other words, working-class people who got checks from Trump would not get them from Biden. Brilliant!" Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)—who along with Omar and others has been pushing for recurring relief payments for nearly a year—tweeted sardonically on Saturday night.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), a CPC member, echoed the Vermont senator. "It would be outrageous if we ran on giving more relief and ended up doing the opposite," said Ocasio-Cortez. "It's sad that this is even an argument in the Dem party. Covid relief is disaster relief, and it's urgent."

To pass a coronavirus relief package through the reconciliation process without Republican support, the Senate Democratic caucus cannot afford a single defection. House Democrats, meanwhile, hold just a 10-seat majority, meaning that even a relatively small exodus of CPC members could imperil the coronavirus relief package—a state of affairs that potentially gives the chamber's progressive contingent significant leverage over the ongoing negotiations.

NBC News reported late last week that the eligibility framework remains a "live ball," with conservative and progressive members of the Democratic caucus publicly and privately battling over who should receive the new round of payments. President Joe Biden has said he is open to lowering the income cutoff for the checks, and discussed the possibility of narrowing eligibility with Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) at the White House last week.

Progressive activists and commentators have argued that in addition to being morally unjustifiable amid such a far-reaching economic collapse, limiting eligibility for the $1,400 payments would be politically "suicidal" and represent yet another retreat from the original campaign-trail promise of $2,000 relief checks that helped Democrats take control of the Senate.

"Let's be really, really clear. Doing this will cost Democrats control of the Congress in 2022 and the White House in 2024," Robert Cruickshank, campaign director at advocacy group Demand Progress, said last week. "There is nobody out there in America aside from a few wonks who want to limit these checks. It is a colossally bad idea."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'I Simply Cannot Stand By': Jayapal Endorses Cisneros Against Anti-Abortion Incumbent Cuellar

"At a time when our reproductive freedoms are under attack by an extremist Supreme Court, we must elect pro-choice candidates that will fight to make sure abortion remains the law of the land."

Jake Johnson ·


In Telling Slip, George W. Bush Condemns the 'Unjustified and Brutal Invasion of Iraq'

"It's hard to get past the nihilistic evil of killing hundreds of thousands, making millions into refugees, and turning it into stand-up to defuse the awkwardness of your hypocrisy," responded one journalist.

Jake Johnson ·


Green Groups Urge California Gov. Newsom to Close Aging Nuclear Plant on Schedule

"Diablo Canyon is dangerous, dirty, and expensive," a coalition of environmental organizations said in a letter to California's Democratic governor. "It must retire as planned."

Brett Wilkins ·


'After Which Failed Pregnancy Should I Have Been Imprisoned?' Asks Rep. Lucy McBath

The congresswoman highlighted how right-wing attacks on abortion rights could also impact the healthcare available to patients who experience miscarriages and stillbirths.

Jessica Corbett ·


'A Slap in the Face to Voters': Kansas Supreme Court Upholds GOP Map

"This case is only one skirmish in the wholesale assault on democracy in Kansas and around the country," said the head of the state's ACLU.

Jessica Corbett ·

Common Dreams Logo