The White House says Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package is the most ‘progressive piece of legislation in history.’ Top progressives agree.

joe biden bernie sanders
Joe Biden greets Sen. Bernie Sanders before the Democratic presidential primary debate at Drake University on January 14, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa.

  • President Joe Biden is touting his $1.9 trillion coronavirus package as a progressive bill.
  • Progressive lawmakers are also celebrating the American Rescue Plan and taking credit for it.
  • The bill would become Biden’s first major legislation and represents unity within Democrats.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package is on track to become the first major legislation of his administration. He’s touting it as a progressive achievement – and many progressives are on board with the sentiment.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday described the massive bill aimed at tackling the coronavirus pandemic’s economic fallout as “the most progressive piece of legislation in history.”

Bernie Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont and a leading champion for many of the progressive policies included in the bill, expressed a similar viewpoint over the weekend. He called the stimulus “the most significant piece of legislation to benefit working people in the modern history of this country” upon its passage in the Senate on Saturday.

Progressives, too, are taking credit for the bill. Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, called the stimulus a “truly progressive and bold package that delivers on its promise to put money directly in people’s pockets.”

“We take the win,” Jayapal told Politico’s Sarah Ferris on Capitol Hill on Monday. “We believe it’s our work that made it as progressive as it is.”

The legislation, which is due for a vote in the House this week, represents unity within the Democratic Party at the start of Biden’s presidency – a development that seemed unlikely a year ago.

Progressive voters weren’t firmly in Biden’s column. He is a centrist and they had set their hopes on more left-leaning candidates, including Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, for president. After Biden clinched the Democratic nomination, he continued to pitch himself as a moderate who would unite the left and right, leaving progressives worried about whether they’d have a seat at the table with him in the White House.

However, since taking office, Biden has worked with progressives and the White House has promoted an agenda consistent with many of the left’s policy ideas.

“Progressives should be very proud of this bill,” a senior Democratic aide told Insider. “This is an absolutely terrific piece of legislation and we’re going to continue to work very closely with the Biden administration to make sure we have an economy and a government that works for all of us and not just the top 1%.”

Some of the measures included in the $1.9 trillion stimulus package hailed by progressives are an expanded child tax credit, $1,400 direct payments, and housing and food assistance.

That said, progressives don’t view the legislation as perfect.

Warren called the bill “powerful” but emphasized that it is “just the start of what Congress can do for working families.”

Pramila Jayapal
Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal.

Originally, Biden had included a provision that would have boosted the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 and had the backing of progressives. However, the Senate parliamentarian, who is responsible for setting the procedural rules of the chamber, ruled against its inclusion in the final bill.

Progressives had urged the White House to overrule the decision, but these calls went unheeded. Sanders then fought to add the minimum wage hike to the package through an amendment, but did not receive enough support from his Senate colleagues. Even eight Democrats voted no.

Some progressive Democrats in the House, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, criticized the changes in the Senate bill. Yet Biden on Saturday rejected the notion that progressives were upset. “They’re not frustrated,” Biden told reporters. “Bernie Sanders said this is the most progressive bill he’s ever seen passed since he’s been here.”

Psaki on Monday said that Biden remains committed to increasing the federal minimum wage, and progressives plan to hold him to it. Still, she reiterated that the White House is currently focused on making the stimulus package become law, and many congressional progressives say the same.

“I am going to be an enthusiastic yes on this,” Jayapal told NBC News on Monday.

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Biden poised to sign final stimulus package with $1,400 checks within days

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden at the White House.

  • Biden appears to be on course to sign a massive $1.9 trillion stimulus bill within days.
  • House Democrats are set to vote on a final version of the bill late on Tuesday.
  • Biden said $1,400 stimulus checks would start going out once the bill is signed.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

President Joe Biden is on course to sign a $1.9 trillion stimulus plan within days, marking his first major legislative achievement nearly two months into his administration.

The Senate approved the massive rescue package on Saturday after a marathon day of voting. Now the House is expected to vote on the bill in its final form late on Tuesday, after it makes a stop at the Rules Committee. Democrats are rushing to enact the bill ahead of a March 14 deadline for the end of enhanced unemployment benefits.

House Democrats hold a five-seat majority, the slimmest in decades for the lower chamber. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has vowed to approve the rescue bill quickly.

It would provide $1,400 stimulus payments for most taxpayers; $300 weekly federal jobless aid through early September; fund vaccine distribution and testing; an expanded child tax credit; and money for state and local governments.

However, the bill contains some notable differences from the one House Democrats cleared a week ago, which requires some finagling in the Rules Committee. The new legislation does not include a $15 minimum wage, after a Senate official ejected it last month, and it cuts federal unemployment benefits to $300 weekly instead of $400. The duration of unemployment benefits is actually longer than the House version of the bill, running through September 6, but shorter than an earlier Senate proposal to run through October 3.

Despite early concerns that these changes could prompt a revolt among progressives, they still appear to support the rescue package. Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said the final bill has “retained its core bold, progressive elements.”

“Importantly, despite the fact that we believe any weakening of the House provisions were bad policy and bad politics, the reality is that the final amendments were relatively minor concessions,” Jayapal said in a Saturday statement.

Jayapal also said in a tweet that she believed the stimulus serves as a “down-payment on the $3-to-$4.5 trillion in stimulus,” suggesting progressives will continue pressing for ambitious spending.

Biden said on Saturday that the federal government would start sending stimulus payments “this month” as he touted parts of the bill that are broadly popular with voters. He also said the legislation strongly resembles the initial one he proposed in early January.

“I don’t think any of the compromises have in any way fundamentally altered the essence of what I put in the bill in the first place,” Biden said on Saturday.

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AOC, Ilhan Omar, and other progressives continue criticism of Senate’s modified $1.9 trillion stimulus package

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Progressive lawmakers such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Ilhan Omar this weekend pointed out what they saw as shortcomings in the Senate’s revised COVID-19 relief bill, including the removal of a federal minimum wage hike to $15 per hour. 

The $1.9 trillion package approved by the Senate on Saturday would provide essential aid, but didn’t go far enough, they said. 

“We remain extremely disappointed that the minimum wage bill was not included. The minimum wage remains essential policy and we must deliver on this issue,” the Congressional Progressive Caucus said in a statement.

Omar said the bill as modified by the Senate offered aid to fewer Americans than the package signed by President Donald Trump in December. 

“This is not the promise that we made. This is not why we are given the opportunity to be in the majority in the Senate and have the White House,” Omar said on CNN

Ilhan Omar
Representative Ilhan Omar.

She added: “And so ultimately it is a failure when we compromise ourselves out of delivering on behalf of the American people and keeping our promises.”

Omar and Ocasio-Cortez also retweeted a thread from Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, in which the lawmaker questioned whether she could still support the bill when it returned to the House for a vote. 

“It seems there’s never a ceiling for the rich when they want a tax cut. And never a floor for the poor when they need help,” Watson Coleman wrote on Twitter

House leadership scheduled a vote on the Senate bill for Tuesday, with a plan to send it to President Joe Biden before unemployment benefits for millions expire on March 14

 “The House now hopes to have a bipartisan vote on this life-saving legislation and urges Republicans to join us in recognition of the devastating reality of this vicious virus and economic crisis and of the need for decisive action,” Nancy Pelosi, House speaker, said in a statement

In the days before Saturday’s Senate vote, progressives in both chambers had decried the removal of minimum wage increases in the bill. 

Senator Bernie Sanders on Friday made a last-ditch effort to include a $15 minimum wage amendment, which was rejected by his Senate colleagues. Sanders still called the bill “the most significant piece of legislation to benefit working people in the modern history of this country.” 

Eight Democratic senators voted against Sanders’ amendment. 

On Twitter, Ocasio-Cortez asked her followers to imagine “having the ganas to go home and ask minimum wage workers to support you after going back on your own documented stance to help crush their biggest chance at a wage hike during their longest drought of wage increases since the law’s very inception.”

She added: “Sin vergüenza,” which translates as “without shame.”

 

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Pointless infighting among progressives is becoming exhausting and harmful

bernie sanders inauguration meme
Bernie Sanders is making money for charity thanks to his virtual inauguration meme.

  • A disagreement over Medicare For All has pit influential progressives against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
  • It’s the latest example of progressives engaging in dumb, line-drawing battles against each other.
  • Debate is healthy, but shunning people who want the same things is counter-productive.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

When a wing of progressives called on Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to force a Medicare For All vote in the House, it drew a line in the sand for people on the left. #ForceTheVote was an effort that intended to ostracize Republicans and centrist Democrats who don’t support an overhaul of our nation’s healthcare system. AOC didn’t think it was a good idea, noting that forcing a vote that doesn’t have a chance in the House, let alone the Senate, could only cause friction among Democrats and harm their cause.

This disagreement created a loud faction of progressives who are now anti-AOC. They are seemingly led by comedian-turned-political talk show host Jimmy Dore, who in December said that AOC is now “standing between you and healthcare,” and went on to call her a liar, gaslighter, and coward.

Unthinkably, given her standing as the highest profile progressive member of Congress, AOC saw her Twitter mentions flooded with hate-fueled banter and accusations of being a sellout and fraud.

She’ll be fine, of course, as that’s just part of her job. But the impulse from progressives to turn on their own – and for relatively dumb reasons – has become a baffling spectacle and a maddening trend that’s stalled real change. Instead of infighting and bickering, progressives need to take a step back and understand what the best path to progress is.

You stab my back, and I’ll stab yours

The 2020 Democratic primaries were heated. People who were passionate about a particular candidate would sometimes wade into insults and ridicule on social media. Just about every candidate had a small but loud faction of supporters who would do this, but for whatever reason, Bernie Sanders’ online faction got the most media attention. While Sanders continued to offer an inclusive agenda and even denounced the more annoying parts of his base, scores of liberals and progressives became turned off by even the thought of Sanders. They held this grudge despite his long-standing record on vital issues and humble demeanor.

This became clear when Sanders, as head of the Senate Budget Committee, asked Neera Tanden, Biden’s pick to lead the Office of Budget Management, to reflect on her own attacks on social media, including personal attacks she hurled at Bernie himself. Tanden apologized for her actions, but if you looked under any tweet about the exchange, you saw countless accusations of sexism on Bernie’s part, attacks on his character, and a general sense of pure hatred for the man.

This grudge against Bernie Sanders held by so-called progressives remains weird and a little bit sad, especially considering how long it’s been since the primaries. The disdain for the Vermont senator even affects the people he associates with. When MoveOn, a high-profile progressive advocacy organization, endorsed Nina Turner, a former Bernie Sanders surrogate, for Congress, it was met with a wave of displeasure.

The list of pointless grudges doesn’t stop there. I’ll be the first to admit that I was upset with Sen. Elizabeth Warren during the 2020 primaries. 

I felt that she had undermined the progressive cause not just by promoting a misleading story that implied Sen. Bernie Sanders was sexist, but also by not corralling her supporters behind him when her campaign ran out of steam.

But now that a whole year has passed, it is easy to admit that Warren is a pivotal part of the progressive agenda and should be supported as such. Many progressives, though, simply can’t get over that grudge. She’s still a “snake” in too many people’s eyes.

Warren shunning
A tweet in response to Elizabeth Warren

These people are too petty to see that she’s fighting for everything they want, including universal healthcare, a $15 minimum wage, and a cancellation of student loan debt. It will be harder for progressives to accomplish those things if people who advocate for them aren’t supportive of the lawmakers who can make them happen. It’s not just Warren who’s been targeted by progressive grudges, either.

Like Sanders, Warren has fought for a slew of policies that progressives dream about, but for those who illogically consider them enemies of the progressive movement, that doesn’t matter.

Read more: The 2 reasons Republicans can’t move on from Donald Trump

Keep it simple

As someone who spends a lot of time on Twitter pointing out the hypocrisies of politicians, I am not saying you shouldn’t be skeptical of them in general. Even trivial forms of ridicule aren’t so bad in the larger discourse. But people should save their real disdain for an actual policy or platform they disagree with, instead of hating on someone who’s on their side, and for some trivial thing that happened more than a year ago. Debate is fine and encouraged, but the shaming and booing of one’s own team is counter-productive.

Figuring out who the best options for progress are shouldn’t be nearly this complicated. Think of the things you support, and support the politicians who agree with you. Naturally, when different strategies towards progress are debated, things may get heated. You might grow weary of someone and have less tolerance for them. That’s totally fine, and normal even. But progressives holding these year-long grudges against other progressives can only hurt the ultimate goal.

I wish Bernie Sanders was the Democratic nominee in 2020 and I wish Elizabeth Warren, after realizing her campaign was toast, had done more to solidify his chances. But both of these officials, along with newly chastised-from-the-left AOC, have a moral fortitude that’s actually pretty rare in politics. They serve us, but we have a role to play in their success. We just have to be smart about it.

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