Pelosi Feels the Heat, but May Be Trying to Hedge
Pelosi clearly feels the heat — she is suddenly pretending she’s always been ready to take Trump up on his offer to support $2,000 survival checks, even though prior to yesterday, she had never tried to triangulate Trump against McConnell on the issue. Earlier this month, she supported a deal that did not include checks at all, and just yesterday she insisted that $600 checks were “significant.”
Indeed, the $2,000 is a new ask for Democratic leaders — progressive lawmakers had been pushing it for months, but Pelosi’s much-touted Heroes Act only asked for $1,200 onetime, means-tested checks.
Regardless, the Democratic House speaker is now finally saying she wants a vote to amend the stimulus bill to increase the small $600 checks to $2,000 — and such an amendment has already been written by Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib.
Republicans repeatedly refused to say what amount the President wanted for direct checks. At last, the President has agreed to $2,000 — Democrats are ready to bring this to the Floor this week by unanimous consent. Let’s do it! https://t.co/Th4sztrpLV
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) December 23, 2020
However, Pelosi’s statement of support includes a bit of a hedge. She says she wants to bring it up by unanimous consent — a process that gives any single member of the House the ability to raise an objection and block it. That could let her pretend she tried to force a vote, but was thwarted by a Republican dissenter. But she is House speaker — there are ways for her to truly force a vote.
As the American Prospect’s David Dayen notes, Pelosi could, for instance, do it under a separate process of suspending the rules which would mean that to stop it, “140 Republicans have to buck Trump and deny a cash lump-sum payout to the American people.”
In the Senate, Schumer can start demanding unanimous consent to pass the $2,000 check legislation every day the body is in session — a process that would have the added benefit of putting the heat on Georgia incumbent Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue to pick which side they are on.
As for Biden, he was embarrassingly muted when a proposal for $1,200 checks was a live option — his transition team seemed far more enthusiastic about protecting a program that helped BlackRock than it did about immediately securing direct aid for families. In fact, Biden also signaled his support for the original checkless deal earlier this month.
Now, Biden has a rare chance to show some leadership, put the heat on McConnell, and actually extract more money from him to help the public. People need help now, and it won’t be any easier to get big spending bills through a McConnell-led Senate if Democrats don’t win the two Georgia Senate races next month.
Either way, the country’s experience with the first round of support shows that increasing direct payments now could immediately reduce poverty. It could also help build the case for new rounds of bigger checks down the line.