Democrats must take a stand.
By Phillip | 4/26/20
There have been three and a half Coronavirus bills passed by the Senate, and Democrats must say no to number four. This may seem contradictory and mean spirited: aren’t Democrats supposed to be the party of giving money to help people? These bills have been helping Americans, but the problem is of opportunity cost and not doing enough.
Democrats started the process with enormous amounts of leverage. With this leverage, in the most recent bill, Democrats demanded that… Republicans increase money into small businesses and things that Republicans should already want since their number one goal (both politically and ideologically) is to get the economy up and running. Although blocking the bill for a couple weeks is more obstructionist than usual for Chuck, it still gives Republicans what they want (even if they’re too stubborn to acknowledge it), without securing any meaningful Democratic policies. The opportunity cost is that Democrats are delaying playing hardball for a more “convenient” time, but there will never be a “good” moment to act. In fact, the opportunity may have already passed, as Republicans are looking to stop legislating until they can meet in person (which might be a while).
As the Senate and House pass half measures that aren’t sufficient or long term fixes, Democrats’ leverage decreases. Slowly, these weak bills will decrease in force and scope.
Here are things that Democrats must demand at the next opportunity (Indivisible):
- Stop Mass Unemployment: In Canada and European countries, governments are paying portions of workers salaries (up to 80% in Great Britain). Keeping employees on payroll helps both workers and companies: workers can continue to live and when it is time to reopen, companies do not have to go through a new hiring and training process. In America, 26 million workers have lost their jobs in the past five weeks and although unemployment benefits have been increased, most workers would rather have a job to return to and in the meantime, steady pay. Consider Pramila Jayapal’s Paycheck Guarantee Act, which covers struggling companies’ base payroll. In some cases, unemployment benefits cost the government more than paying companies to keep their workers (Matthew Yglesias).
- Expand Financial Relief: Instead of one time payments, we should automate the system so that checks will start when any crisis starts and end when the crisis ends. We must “expand aid for the most vulnerable in the COVID-19 epidemic, including direct cash assistance, increased food aid, debt relief, and eviction protections”(Indivisible).
- Defend Elections: Republicans will vehemently oppose this point. Trump admitted that more people voting is worse for them electorally. It is imperative, not just for the Democratic party but for our democracy, that we don’t force people to choose between voting and their health. Pass Elizabeth Warren’s voting rights plan.
- Protect Public Health: Fully cover Coronavirus care costs (which are usually around $30,000), instead of partially. This seems like a no brainer, but Medicare enrollment should be expanded. Through these improvements, we can show people how much Medicare for All would help.
- Fund State and Local Governments: After not allocating any money for the states (who are bearing much of the financial load) in the most recent bill, Mitch McConnell now wants states to declare bankruptcy even though this is not currently allowed and would not be helpful in any way. Nancy Pelosi has already signaled that she will demand state funding in the next bill.
- Fund a Nationwide Plan: Many plans (notably there are none from the White House) have been released charting a path to defeating Coronavirus and returning to “normal.” All of them involve ratcheting up the testing so that we can quickly act to quarantine micro break outs. Scott Gottlieb’s plan requires “better data to identify areas of spread and the rate of exposure and immunity in the population,” improve the health care systems capacity, and generate “therapeutic, prophylactic, and preventive treatments” that can protect people while we are searching for a vaccine. All of these steps require funding and national leadership.
Given that these bills have been passed by unanimous consent in the Senate, all it takes is one brave voice of dissent to derail the process. All the things that were impossible are now possible in this time of turmoil, so we have to demand them.
I challenge Bernie Sanders to take a stand against these half measure bills — there will be backlash, but I know that you have always advocated for your personal values.
I challenge Kamala Harris, my representative in the Senate, to take the hard step of opposing all future insufficient relief bills. Although you have a liberal voting record, many progressives are wary of you because of your past as a prosecutor, especially on issues that affect people of color. Now you must rebuild our trust if you want to run in the “Medicare for All” lane of the Democratic party. This is the kind of high risk, high reward moment that can make you a star of the progressive movement.
Barbara Lee of California's 13th district, my representative in the House, I challenge you to lead a movement against the next bill in the House. Join Alexandra Ocasio Cortez and reject the fourth bill until Republicans give in: 19 years after you were the only member of Congress to vote against giving George H.W. Bush omnipotent war powers, be brave again and be remembered by future generations for your courage.