Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez doesn’t plan to throw her support behind the interim coronavirus relief package congressional leaders have been negotiating for nearly two weeks that is expected to have a price tag of roughly half a trillion dollars.
Ms Ocasio-Cortez said that while she has not seen any draft legislation of the follow-up package to the $2.2trn so-called CARES Act from March, she is not inclined to vote in favour of it.
“If it matches up with what has been reported, I will not support this bill,” Ms Ocasio-Cortez said.
The Bronx, New York, freshman was the only Democrat to go on record opposing the CARES Act.
Ms Ocasio-Cortez’ frustration reflects growing dissatisfaction among Congressional Progressive Caucus members with the federal government’s response to the health crisis, which they say has been too “incremental” and sluggish.
There is a “level of concern that exists” within the CPC that the bill being negotiated by Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and their Republican counterparts in Congress and in the White House does not go far enough to address skyrocketing unemployment rates among the working class and racial disparities in how relief is being distributed.
House Democrats have a full-caucus conference call later on Monday afternoon, where leaders will brief the rank and file on the current state of negotiations for the interim bill.
Ms Ocasio-Cortez represents New York’s 14th District, which has been acutely affected by the coronavirus pandemic. More people in her district have died from Covid-19 than during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, she said.
Ms Ocasio-Cortez and Democratic Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts argued that the next bill Congress passes must take a whole-hog approach to the health crisis instead of focusing on addressing issues as they arise.
“When we talk about the solutions that Congress needs to have moving forward, I just think it’s important for us to say that incrementalism is not helpful in this moment,” Ms Ocasio-Cortez said.
“It’s not helpful for people to say, ‘Oh, well, we got something so we might as well support it. … We got a nickel, we got a dime in a trillion dollar bill, [and] a nickel is more than nothing, so we should support it,'” she said. “That is “not acceptable, not in my community. … A nickel doesn’t help. It’s like putting a Band-Aid on an enormous wound.”
Among the provisions Ms Ocasio-Cortez and House progressives are advocating for in new coronavirus legislation are automatically recurring monthly payments of $2,000 per person to adults, plus $1,000 for children for up to one year, or until the employment-to-population ratio reaches 60 percent.
The Cares Act provided a one-time payment of $1,200 to most American adults plus $500 per claimed dependent.
Ms Ocasio-Cortez said the fact coronavirus is preventing Congress from meeting for regular business in Washington and drafting legislation on an ongoing basis should change Congress’ strategic calculus from a step-by-step approach and compel lawmakers to pass a comprehensive package that provides ongoing assistance to American families and workers.
“I would be amenable to accepting this kind of logic if Congress actually was in session and convening,” Ms Ocasio-Cortez said of an incremental response to the health crisis.
“But if you’re going to say that this new bill is going to give us $5, and then Congress is going to peace out for another month-long recess, I’m here to say that that’s not going to help our communities,” she said.