Centrist Democrats Got Their COVID Bill, Now They Want a Vote

"We're putting airlines in," said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

With the number of U.S. coronavirus deaths topping 200,000 — and unemployment filings still at record highs — rank-and-file Democrats cheered the arrival of the new proposal in hopes that it might pressure Republicans to endorse an agreement that can become law.

"The key thing is that people keep negotiating," said Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), former head of the New Democrat Coalition. "And it sounds to me like putting some meat on the bones of $2.2 trillion is a pretty good negotiating tactic."

On Friday, the Capitol took a brief pause from the presidential campaign and the fight over COVID-19 aid to remember the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who became the first woman to lie in state in the building.

But moderates were determined to keep the heat on Pelosi heading into the weekend. Vulnerable first-term Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Iowa), who flipped a GOP-held seat in 2018, penned a letter to Pelosi on Friday beseeching the Speaker to bring “a revised and streamlined COVID-19 relief package to the floor next week.”

The letter was signed by several other at-risk first-term Democratic lawmakers, including Reps. Angie Craig (Minn.), Abby Finkenauer (Iowa), Chris Pappas (N.H.) and Susan Wild (Pa.).

“Americans are counting on us; they cannot wait any longer,” the Democrats wrote. “We are asking you to bring up a bill that demonstrates our commitment to meeting [the White House and Senate] in the middle, as we have expressed our willingness to do, and advance it through the House with the haste this crisis demands.”

But the letter highlighted a small fissure among vulnerable moderates. The Axne group told Pelosi it wanted a vote “regardless if the White House or Senate agree.”

 “We must show the American people that the House of Representatives is open to negotiations and clear in our resolve to deliver aid for millions in need,” they wrote.

Another group of moderates — led by Problem Solvers Caucus Co-Chairman Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) — wrote separately to Pelosi that a partisan, show vote just won’t cut it. They want a vote on a bipartisan “compromise” that is  “reasonable and that can be signed into law by the President of the United States.”

“Lives and livelihood are at stake and the window of opportunity is closing,” Phillips told The Hill. “America has rarely required its Congress to find common ground as it does now, and I implore that we meet the moment.”

By:  Mike Lillis and Scott Wong
Source: The Hill