Liberal leaders on both sides of the Capitol are unhappy with aspects of the $3 trillion bill because it doesn't go far enough to embrace the demands of progressive lawmakers.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said the legislation needs revisions to adequately help Americans reeling from the unprecedented crisis.
"[T]he Senate must improve this legislation if we are to adequately address the two most urgent needs facing working families right now: health care and economic security," Sanders said in a statement.
The leaders of the House Progressive Caucus are also pushing for revisions of the bill and have sought to delay a vote on the legislation. Progressive leaders are discussing the best strategy to force House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to pull the bill from the floor Friday and allow them to make revisions. One consideration is for progressives to vote against the rule that kicks off the debate in House.
Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., said he'll support the progressive caucus strategy, but "I'm hoping it won't come to that and the leadership will listen."
Reps. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and Mark Pocan, D-Wis., already sent Pelosi a letter on Tuesday asking the Friday vote be tabled for next week. The letter, obtained by Fox News, said the extra time is needed so members can review the legislation and offer "any amendments that might be needed to ensure that it truly reflects the priorities and the work of the entire caucus."
There's been frustration, voiced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, that the House has been in recess during the pandemic. The details of the massive 1,815-page legislation have been negotiated by Democratic leadership in private and without public hearings.
Progressive leaders argue the current bill fails to meet the scale of a crisis where 36 million Americans have lost their jobs and at least 27 million are newly uninsured.
"The historic crisis Americans are facing will not end on its own," Jayapal tweeted. "To end it, these 3 things—getting people paychecks, ensuring access to health care, supporting businesses and their workers—are critical. But this legislation does not yet address them at the scale necessary."
Progressives had wanted $2,000 a month reoccurring payments, but instead, the legislation calls for another one-time $1,200 payout. However, the legislation expands recipients to certain undocumented immigrants who pay federal taxes, in a nod to the progressive demands.
Another huge priority of the progressive caucus was the Paycheck Guarantee Act that Jayapal had introduced. The legislation was designed to ensure workers were paid and attached to their employers' healthcare during the pandemic to avoid layoffs, business closures and more unemployment claims. The plan called for the federal government to give grants to employers to cover 100 percent of employees' benefits and salaries (up to $100,000 salary per person) for the next three months.
Khanna, D-Calif., said he hasn't yet heard a "coherent economic rationale" on why Jayapal's proposal didn't make the cut.
"When people say that Rep. Jayapal's bill for a paycheck guarantee is 'too costly,' I'd like them to explain to me why they think in a low-inflation, low-interest-rate environment, a crisis response of spending to prevent massive unemployment and a shirking of the GDP is bad policy," Khanna told Fox News. "I have yet to hear a coherent economic rationale."
For his part, Sanders says the bill needs the $2,000 reoccurring payments, the Paycheck Guarantee Act and expanding Medicare to cover the healthcare costs of the under-insured and insured until the crisis is over.
"This unprecedented crisis demands an unprecedented legislative response," Sanders said. "I look forward to working with my colleagues in improving and expanding the House bill before it is considered in the Senate."
The concerns raised by the most leftwing lawmakers don't seem to be enough to sink the $3 trillion bill as of now. Pelosi has not delayed the vote and on a caucus call Wednesday with Democrats, there was widespread support among the membership, according to a source familiar with the call.
The struggle is that despite all the demands not being met, there's plenty of positive things in the bill for Democrats, such as nearly $1 trillion in money to state and local governments to help protect public employees, like teachers, from getting laid off, hazard pay provisions for frontline workers, new worker safety regulations and rent and mortgage relief programs.
"I'm reviewing the whole package with my colleagues in the Progressive Caucus," Khanna told reporters Thursday. "These things [are] always difficult to us because our state and counties so desperately need the trillion dollars. But there are parts of it that are problematic."