Pelosi Says No to Standalone Stimulus Bill

This is my stimulus update for Friday, August 21.

This Week’s Stimulus News Roundup

So the big stimulus stories this week are: number one, as I told you earlier this week Republicans are reportedly coming up with a “skinny” stimulus bill, smaller than the HEALS Act that reportedly doesn’t include stimulus checks, the full text has not yet been publicized so we’re still waiting for that, and number two, other big stimulus story this week is that every day more and more rank-and-file Democrats, not Speaker Pelosi, not Leader Hoyer, not Minority Leader Schumer in the Senate, but every day Democratic members of the House are calling on their leaders to be open to stimulus compromise and perhaps even piecemeal stimulus legislation such as what Republicans seem to support.

I told you two days ago about the letter to Pelosi and Hoyer supported by over 100 House Democrats to do a standalone bill on unemployment, I told you yesterday about Democratic Congresswoman Cindy Axne’s letter to Pelosi to, “bring up a simplified, straightforward COVID-19 relief package,” and today even more rank-and-file Democrats have sent their own letter to Nancy Pelosi and other Congressional leaders urging compromise.

Blue Dog Coalition’s Letter To Pelosi

We have not seen the full text of the letter yet, so I’m just going off a draft that supposedly Bloomberg got its hands on.

This letter is from the so-called Blue Dog coalition, which is comprised of twenty-six fiscally conservative Democrats.

This letter reads, “As the House prepares to vote this weekend on a bill to protect the United States Postal Service, we urge you to restart bipartisan, bicameral negotiations on a fifth COVID-19 relief package that is commensurate with the scale of this public health and economic crisis.”

It speaks to the common ground between Democrats and Republicans with respect to stimulus, including extending the enhanced unemployment benefits and stimulus checks.

But here’s the deal.  Nancy Pelosi has basically said “no” to these more moderate Democrats in her caucus to take up stimulus tomorrow.  As I told you earlier this week, Pelosi has called the House back to vote on a Post Office measure tomorrow, and many Democrats as well as Republicans see this as a good time to perhaps talk stimulus again.

I’ve told you what Democrats have said all this week, and indeed some Republican members of the House feel the same.

For example, Republican Congressman Darin LaHood, for example, said, “I just think it’s a bit ridiculous that we are going back to D.C. to vote on a postal bill when we ought to be voting on a stimulus bill.”

But Pelosi has basically said “no” to that idea.

Yesterday, on PBS News Hour, Pelosi was asked about the letter supported by over 100 Democrats seeking a vote on a standalone unemployment stimulus bill tomorrow along with the vote on the Post Office bill, and Pelosi basically shut down the notion of such a vote tomorrow.

Pelosi’s Response

Here’s the clip or read the transcript below:

Reporter: Let me ask you about COVID relief, before the Congress you’ve been struggling to strike a deal as we know with Republican On this but this week more than 100, Democrats in the House signed a letter urging you to pass a smaller relief bill than what you have out there. You weren’t had agreed to go from 3 trillion down to 2 trillion, but they would they want to expand unemployment benefits. But basically they’re saying after the, the duration of this Covid emergency, that they would scale the support based on what the situation is in, in every state. But my question is, where do you stand on what they’re asking you to do?

Nancy Pelosi: Well, they’re asking us to do… to do a nice fully from a policy standpoint, have always supported the stabilization. That means that if you say, when unemployment reaches a certain point, that you would automatically have unemployment benefits. That’s a very positive initiative. I’ve encouraged that. I have welcomed that suggestion. I don’t think strategically it’s where we should go right now because the republicans would like to pass something like that and say forget about it. Forget about state and local. Forget about our investments in stopping the virus. Forget about other initiatives about feeding the food insecure children in our country, both by mail initiatives and the rest. So I, I again, I think that’s something we should pass. I don’t think the timing is for us to do it right now. Because imagine that Republicans could take that into the senate put poison pills all over it. And it’s hard to vote against extending unemployment benefits. And again, I think, overwhelmingly our members who would not want to expand unemployment benefits, as I say it’s something I fully support at and the stabilization, but not necessarily in the negotiation.

Reporter: But just to clarify then, there you don’t really see an opening here to get this thing resolved in the coming few days?

Nancy Pelosi: No, I do. I don’t think it’s done by giving them an out. I think it’s done by making them come into the negotiation, because really the most central point of it all, where people’s needs are met the most is the issue of state and local government. And they have said, we don’t think one state should pay for another state’s concerns. Well, we in California, have been paying for other people’s concerns for a long time. So people in New York and the rest, that’s the American way we do it with great pride, not with any resentment. But they have said, Oh, it’s a tax issue. Why should people in one state help other people in another state? Welcome to the United States of America. I do appreciate what my members are doing, I support fully that. But I don’t necessarily think the timing of it is right now. I think that’s something that we do when we know we will get it signed with our poison pills.

So in all that, Pelosi was basically saying that she agrees, obviously, that federally-funded enhanced unemployment benefits should continue but that she doesn’t want to do a standalone bill like Republicans are asking, like over 100 members of her own Democrats in the House are asking, because she’s afraid that doing such a thing would put her and Chuck Schumer in a poorer position with respect to stimulus negotiations because then they will have lost one of their keystone bargaining chips in future legislation, namely the unemployment.

In the HEROES Act, Pelosi proposed the federal government giving nearly $1 trillion to state and local governments to support them during this crisis, she wants that, and Republicans know that they are going to have to give her something there, but Pelosi doesn’t want to lose one of her bargaining chips with a standalone unemployment bill.

Pelosi is also afraid that if the House passes a standalone unemployment bill that Republicans in the Senate would, as she put it, put “poison pills” in there, like I don’t know, maybe liability protection for businesses is a poison pill in Pelosi’s mind, and then if that happens and it passes the Senate, then it would go back to the House for approval.

And Pelosi knows that it would be a bad political look for Democrats to vote “no” on this theoretical unemployment bill because the people will know it as the unemployment bill because that’s what everybody would be talking about, but it would be a bad look for Democrats to vote no on this “unemployment bill” not because they’re opposed to extending the supercharged unemployment but because they don’t like the liability protection that Republicans threw in there, that’s what Pelosi’s afraid of.

Mark Meadows on Capitol Hill Tomorrow

In other stimulus news, it is reported that White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, one of the two Republican stimulus negotiators (the other being Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin), will be on Capitol Hill tomorrow as House Democrats vote on USPS matters at Pelosi’s direction.

And why is he there?  It is thought that the reason is to attempt to talk about the next stimulus relief bill.

But no, he probably won’t be speaking to Pelosi herself, who, by the way, told David Axelrod yesterday on The Axe Files that Meadows’ role in the negotiations was “to be Dr. No” and that she didn’t want to “spend any time on him” because “it’s just not worth it.”

Axelrod later asked Pelosi what she thought of Treasury Secretary Mnuchin as a negotiator, and Pelosi said, “Why would we go into that?”

So what’s the takeaway here going into the weekend?  It’s that there are many in Congress who want action, who want stimulus, and want it now, but it appears that the top brass is holding it up because they don’t want to lose bargaining chips in negotiation.

Also, we are still eagerly awaiting the text of the new “skinny” Republican stimulus bill because as I told you earlier this week reports are that it apparently doesn’t include stimulus checks, which would obviously be hugely unpopular, but of course the text of this skinny bill has not yet been released.

New Poll Question

Now, my question for you, and there’s a new poll in the community tab in the channel, and the question in this poll is who do you think is more to blame with the holdup on stimulus legislation?  Democrats or Republicans?  Yes, Democrats did pass the three-plus trillion-dollar HEROES Act in the House on May 15, but many Democrats themselves have criticized the HEROES Act as not a serious effort at bipartisan legislation, I showed you Representative Axne’s letter yesterday as just one example.

Now, Republicans on the other hand dawdled for months, saying they had to wait and see if more stimulus is necessary, and once they decided it was, they decided to release their package the last week of July, the week of the statutory end of the federally-funded unemployment benefits.

And over the course of negotiations, we saw both sides exhibiting extreme reluctance to compromise, though I will say that the Democrats did appear to be willing to give a trillion down if the Republicans gave a trillion up as well, but of course Republicans said no.

But now here we have Nancy Pelosi basically not listening to the rank-and-file members of her caucus in the House who are calling for standalone or skinnier stimulus bills.

Oregon’s Emergency Checks

Also, if you live in Oregon, make $4,000 a month or less pre-COVID, and your income has taken a hit due to COVID, and you’re suffering financial hardship, and you’re not current on unemployment payments — you can see the website to see what that means — then you may be eligible for the $500 Oregon stimulus checks, here’s the link to the website with all the information you need in the description below about eligibility and how to apply.


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