COVID-19: Democrats’ Virus Relief Bill Under Fire

A grassroots U.S. advocacy group says the HEROES Act “doesn’t do nearly enough to help those in need and does far too much to help those who are not,” Jake Johnson reports. 

The Georgia National Guard assisting the Atlanta Community Food Bank. (Georgia National Guard, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

By Jake Johnson
Common Dreams

Grassroots advocacy group Demand Progress on Wednesday urged members of Congress to vote down House Democrats’ newly introduced coronavirus relief legislation, warning that the bill “doesn’t do nearly enough to help those in need and does far too much to help those who are not.”

David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress, said in a statement that the House Democratic leadership “has repeatedly made it clear it does not take concerns of progressives seriously, and is actively seeking to disempower them.”

“Progressives must oppose this bill so as to stop being taken for granted and to set us on a course that leads to stronger legislation moving forward,” said Segal.

Demand Progress, which has more than 2 million members nationwide, is one of the few prominent progressive advocacy organizations that expressed opposition to the HEROES Act after examining its 1,815 pages. Other major progressive organizations announced their plans to mobilize in support of the legislation shortly after it was introduced on Tuesday.

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While the massive bill includes much that progressives support — from hazard pay for frontline workers to emergency funding for the U.S. Postal Service —Demand Progress noted that the measure excludes many proposals that progressives pushed for and contains others that are highly problematic.

Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in 2019. (Gage Skidmore, Flickr)

“It bails out lobbyists but doesn’t do enough to help small businesses meet payroll,” said Segal. “It bails out mortgage services and debt collectors but doesn’t provide easy and affordable health insurance access to people who’ve lost their jobs. It rejects a merger ban that would help ensure the economy works for ordinary people, not for large corporations that will seek to use easy access to cash to consolidate their power.”

The group pointed to a number of specific progressive priorities that were left out of the final bill:

  • Direct payroll support, as offered by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and others;
  • A ban on most mergers for the duration of the crisis, as offered by Reps. David Ciciline (D-R.I.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and others;
  • An allocation by the International Monetary Fund of “special drawing rights” to support the needs of emerging markets, as offered by Rep. Chuy Garcia (D-Ill.) and others;
  • An expansion of federal health insurance programs to the unemployed;
  • Funding for proper congressional oversight of the COVID-19 response, including funding for congressional committees; and
  • Funding for congressional modernization to support remote deliberations and technology modernization.

David Segal, executive director of the grassroots advocacy group Demand Progress. (Wikimedia Commons)

Demand Progress voiced frustration with the House Democratic leadership’s failure to quickly approve remote voting and virtual committee hearings during the coronavirus crisis, arguing that “current procedures serve to disempower progressive lawmakers in particular.” The House is expected to vote Friday on a rule change that would allow proxy voting.

House Democratic leaders also said they will push for a vote on the HEROES Act on Friday, but progressive lawmakers have objected to that timeline. Jayapal and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) late Tuesday demanding that the vote be delayed.

Jayapal and Pocan have also advised CPC members to say they are “undecided” on the bill when asked how they plan to vote.

“I am ready and willing to make this legislation better,” Jayapal tweeted Tuesday. “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.”

Jake Johnson is a staff writer for Common Dreams. Follow him on Twitter: @johnsonjakep

This article is from Common Dreams.

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6 comments for “COVID-19: Democrats’ Virus Relief Bill Under Fire

  1. TheFinnishObserver
    May 15, 2020 at 19:57

    Unfortunately, your comment reads more like an uneducated hitpiece with a nasty feeling of partisan hackery, meaning putting your favorite news site on a pedestal, while inaccurately disparaging maybe the best progressive news site out there ( yes possibly even better or at least more multi-dimensional than your beloved CN). Yes, I consider both CN and CD as vital sources in these troubling times. And they are usually spot on regarding their chosen topics. And as John Drake also pointed out, CD is definitely not on a regular basis if ever getting into that russiagate territory. At least their editorial line is not leaning towards russigate, maybe some lone wolfs writing op-eds have done that sometimes, but you dont want to exclude opinions you disagree with, do you? Isnt it precisely the point to allow all sorts of opinions (factual and well-intended of course) in the progressive left circles?

    And speaking of undermining ones own credibility, presenting Jimmy Dore as a trustworthy news guy while sort of ranting against CD is laughable at best, disingenuous at worst. The irony is, you sounded a bit like an average new york times or washington post reader with your one-sided and misleading take, rather than an independent news site reader. Anyhow, this is not meant to insult Jay or CN or pick a fight with anyone, just correcting mistakes about Common Dreams in a, yes admittedly, long-winded way. Cheers from Finland, loving Common dreams AND Consortium news!:)

  2. Ian
    May 14, 2020 at 18:51

    The content of this bill is not nearly the worst part of it. Over two months Congress unanimously passed four stimulus bills that went almost exclusively to the largest corporations, with the exception of a paltry $1200 check and $600 extra for unemployment. Democrats under Pelosi’s leadership completely gave away the farm. This bill, while inadequate for individuals, and substantially less money than the states have been begging for, doesn’t even stand a chance of being passed. Democrats have no leverage at all now, and that was the plan the whole time. There is no way House leadership didn’t understand that passing state funding, paycheck protection and individual assistance to the fifth stimulus bill was a death sentence for these proposals. What we have now is typical Democrat impotent grandstanding, but they worked hand in hand with Republicans to deliberately block these proposals while enthusiastically participating in the greatest upward transfer of wealth in world history.

    What they have done is pure evil, and these have been some of the most horrifying and shameful votes in American history. In the face of an oncoming pandemic Congress first hands out trillions to the largest corporate interests, then lets smaller businesses fail and get gobbled up by the big ones. The White House nixes the federal COVID response and shifts responsibility onto the states, and Congress instead of setting up an appropriate emergency Federal UBI system chooses to rely on state unemployment systems. Then when state budgets collapse from being saddled with the whole pandemic response, and when unemployment systems start crashing and states can’t fulfill their responsibilities, Congress refuses to pay. This ensures that state budgets and services will be obliterated and states will force people back to work prematurely, just like the how the meager $1200 check wasn’t enough to avoid political pressure to re-open. If you let the people go broke, you can force them back to work. If you let the states go broke, they will force workers to return. And then you have a situation where states have to borrow from the freshly bailed out banks!

    Not only will this lead to extreme amounts of illness and death, put us into a prolonged depression, but it deliberately ravages functional government in the US, creates poverty and unemployment, and majorly consolidates the economy under a few mega-corporations and oligarchs. This is kind of class war will do more damage to America in a few years than a foreign invasion. They voted to destroy the country, kill its people, and let the oligarchs plunder whatever they can. Every member of Congress. And now Democrats want to pretend that helping people or states is on their agenda and it’s once again all the Republicans fault. Monsters. Every single one of them.

  3. Drew Hunkins
    May 14, 2020 at 12:32

    This is the starkest example yet of what the contemporary Democratic Party in America is! During a pandemic they STILL won’t get take to the bully pulpit and advocate for Medicare-for-All, they STILL genuflect to the giant health-industrial-insurance complex, they STILL won’t consider U.B.I.

    The Democratic Party is NOT a progressive party, it’s like asking a zebra to change its stripes. Pelosi and Schumer are who they are, period. They don’t have to give more than two minutes to hearing some progressive-populist vent b/c the progressive-populists hold no power, we have no muscle in the room, and therefore we can be scoffed at, mocked, ridiculed and dismissed with a flick of the wrist.

    The Third-Worldization of America is on the horizon and many would argue that it’s already here. What you find in virtually every Third World country is a small middle class, a tiny super-wealthy plutocratic class living behind barbed-wire, and a huge impoverished mass. That’s exactly where the U.S. is heading. The norm around the globe is the Third World model I just described, it’s Western Europe and post WWII America that were the anomalies.

    • May 18, 2020 at 04:21

      How about this for simplicity. Americans forgot to get involved in government. While enjoying the rare prosperity of the middle class, they didn’t realize their government was setting up to destroy And tax them out of existence!

  4. Jay
    May 14, 2020 at 12:21

    All well and good to highlight the failures, and good things like funding the Post Office, in this House bill which will never pass the Senate. Many have raised these objections, Jimmy Dore talking to Dylan Ratigan for example.

    However, surprised to see CN run a Common Dreams sourced article (not simply an article that Common Dreams picked up from some other party), since Common Dreams deeply undermined its credibility by pushing various Russia-gate fables for years.

    And of course, CN assiduously, justifiably, presciently, and accurately, called BS on Russia-gate.

    Right, I understand that Common Dreams can be credible on one subject and not credible on another. But so can the NY Times or Washington Post. However for multiple obvious reasons, it’s rare to see CN citing those newspapers as solid, reasoned, and thorough sources.

    Common Dreams isn’t as bad as Salon, Alternet-RawStory, but it can be really bad on many subjects, sort of akin to The Intercept on Russia-gate, Syrian “rebels”, and Syrian “government” crimes–G. Greenwald excepted of course.

    • John Drake
      May 14, 2020 at 18:26

      As a steady reader of CN and Common Dreams, I disagree strongly with accusing them of Russiagating. I only noticed a very rare article doing that, not a trend; while most of their reporting is spot on. They do daily continually breaking news and have a very large number of contributors, so there are going to be some diversity, some of which is wrong.

      I stopped supporting Democracy Now for that reason, she got sloppy on Syria also. Mother Jones was horribly Russiagate as was
      AlterNet, which is unfortunate as MJ had done some excellent in depth exposes in the past-way past.

      Russiagate showed the difference between liberals and true radicals( meaning getting at the root, a 1960’s concept).

      As far as the above article is concerned; everybody call your congress critters. The House has struck out twice time to show some intestinal fortitude and fix this-maybe AOC can share some of hers. Of course , the Repugs and Trump will nix anything good, but caving in won’t get anywhere. The Tea Party got their way by playing hard; it is time progressives learned how to take prisoners.

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