Progressive Democrats are not impressed with the stimulus bill that the House of Representatives passed on Friday (March 27) — and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez went as far as calling the bill “shameful” in a biting speech on the House floor the morning of the vote. She also called out Senate Republicans for creating a bill that she says puts corporations before workers.
“What did the Senate Majority fight for?” Ocasio-Cortez said. “One of the largest corporate bailouts with as few strings as possible in American history. Shameful!”
The stimulus plan, a massive $2 trillion bill aimed to help the health of the countries’ social and economic systems in response to the coronavirus pandemic, passed the Senate in a 96-0 vote on Wednesday (March 25), and the House of Representatives is expected to vote on it Friday (March 27).
As it’s currently written, the legislation will allow the U.S. government to send $1,200 checks to millions of Americans. But, as Ocasio-Cortez points out, those $1,200 checks only go to some people with social security numbers, not those who only have tax identification numbers, like tax-paying immigrants.
“What Trump [and] Senate GOP have done is hold hospitals, working people, and the vulnerable hostage so they could get in $500 billion (that will be leveraged into $4 trillion) in corporate welfare,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “Without the Wall St giveaway, GOP refuses to fund hospitals & unemployment. It’s inhumane.”
The legislation will also provide an additional $600 a week for people who have qualified for unemployment for up to four months; allow for up to six months' deferment on federal student loan payments, and provide some businesses and industries with emergency aid. But it will also set aside $50 billion for major airliners, and other loans from the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve that critics have called a bailout for corporate America.
Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), also called out a few of the bill’s shortcomings. “Congress had the chance to fundamentally address the deep inequities in our healthcare system,” she wrote on Twitter. “We had a chance to make testing & treatment free & accessible for EVERYONE & unemployment & paid leave truly universal. This bill didn't do that.”
She added that, while the bill “provides short-term stop gap relief for workers, families and small businesses [...] it also provides massive bail outs to corporations. And this bill also goes out of the way to leave behind our immigrant neighbors in a time of crisis. Our work is far from over.”
This bill comes at a time when many states have all but mandated social distancing and self-isolation techniques in an effort to slow contagion rates. As a result, many people have begun to work at home, and at least 3 million people filed unemployment claims the week of March 16, which the New York Times points out is the biggest number of new claims the country has seen in modern history. And, according to a poll from student advocacy group Rise, about half of college-aged respondents said their work had been impacted as a result of the pandemic. This is why Ocasio-Cortez said she felt the House was effectively forced into voting for the bill, given that so many Americans are effectively being held hostage until the government steps in to help.
“The option that we have is to either let them suffer with nothing or to allow this greed and billions of dollars ... to contribute the largest income inequality gap in our future,” she said. “There should be shame about what was fought for in this bill and the choices that we have to make.”