- Progressive lawmakers like the AOC are deciding whether to push to renew federal unemployment benefits.
- Any effort faces long chances given the resistance from the White House, the New York representative told Insider.
- Pelosi is focused on crafting a bill that can be passed by the Senate, potentially vying for extension.
- See more stories on the Insider business page.
Democrats are starting to put in place a massive $ 3.5 trillion social spending plan that they will implement without any Republican votes over the next few months.
But an extension of unemployment benefits in the event of a pandemic is largely excluded from the discussions. It seems highly unlikely that House or Senate lawmakers will pursue a renewal when they expire on September 6, putting the incomes of at least 7.5 million people at risk. Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky, chair of the House Budget Committee, told Insider on Monday that an extension was not part of the negotiations.
There has usually been one voice speaking out on controversial issues like this: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York, and she told Insider that it was a fight being discussed between progressives like she.
The 96-member Progressive Congressional Caucus is discussing whether to push for renewal. It can be an opening for them to leverage their influence and get additional federal help for struggling Americans. Progressives led by Representative Cori Bush were successful in pressuring the Biden administration to unilaterally extend a moratorium on evictions earlier this month.
But such an effort could also inject more chaos into a legislative process that Democratic leaders want to choreograph with as few errors as possible due to their narrow majorities.
There have already been missteps: A group of 10 House moderates rebelled against President Nancy Pelosi’s insistence on passing a bipartisan infrastructure bill only after the Senate approved a plan to partisan spending. They got Pelosi’s pledge on Tuesday to pass a bipartisan infrastructure bill within a month, whether or not the party line plan was approved.
Some progressives are already sounding the alarm on the end of unemployment benefits in the event of a pandemic. Ocasio-Cortez said it was a “major concern” for her.
“What we have right now is that the Biden administration has indicated that it is almost unwilling to extend the unemployment assistance program in the event of a pandemic,” she told Insider. “We have a Senate that doesn’t want to do it, a White House that doesn’t want to do it – it will take a very engaged House.”
She conceded that any successful effort would come well after Labor Day. Progressives are prioritizing the Democrats’ spending plan, and finalizing legislative details could take several weeks. Ocasio-Cortez said progressives are “leaning into it.”
Other progressives want to expand aid
Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, the top caucus scrutineer, told Insider they still had not calculated the amount of support in their ranks for a benefit extension. “It’s a conversation we’re engaged in – we haven’t talked about this as a progressive caucus yet,” she said. “So we will evaluate with our caucus to see what we are prepared to do to negotiate for this.”
Omar said she believed it was “necessary” to extend benefits.
“I think it’s important,” Omar told Insider. “I also hear from the other side that there are jobs available, but the reality is that many of the jobs available do not pay minimum wage and that brings us back to that conversation of trying to get a wage. minimum of $ 15 instituted in this country. “
Omar and Ocasio-Cortez aren’t the only ones backing an extension. A spokesperson for Bush told Insider she is doing it too.
Still, any willingness to renew benefits would almost certainly meet opposition in the Senate, due to resistance from moderate Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Angus King of Maine. The 50 Democratic senators must stand together for the party line bill to pass, leaving no room for error.
“There is no Republican support for extensions and some members of our caucus are skeptical,” a Democratic Senate aide told Insider, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Despite studies showing no real job growth in Republican states that cut benefits early, there are still members sympathetic to the business community’s arguments.”
Democratic House leaders appear to be renewing their focus on crafting a reconciliation bill that will garner their party’s unanimous support in the Senate. If this is the case, an extension of unemployment benefits can already be ruled out.
“There is no point in making a bill that will not pass the Senate,” Pelosi said Wednesday.