Pelosi defends smaller Covid-19 relief proposal

Pelosi bashed for defending new $600 Covid checks as ‘significant’ sum

Critics argue the checks are too little, too late

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Monday 21 December 2020 22:56

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi faced criticism on Monday that she was out of touch, after celebrating the $600 stimulus checks included in the recent coronavirus stimulus package as a “significant” sum for working families.

“I would like them to have been bigger, but they are significant, and they will be going out soon,” she said on the House floor on Monday. “The president may insist on having his name on the check. But make no mistake. Those checks are from the American people.”

Ms Pelosi’s defence of the $900 aid package, passed on Sunday, drew fire from across the political spectrum online.

“In 2018, Nancy Pelosi called $1,200 bonuses as a result of @realDonaldTrump's tax cuts ‘crumbs’. Today, she called the $600 stimulus checks after 8 months ‘significant,’" wrote conservative activist Dinesh D’Souza on Twitter. “Is there anyone in politics worse than this woman?

The progressive journalist and commentator Mehdi Hasan also took issue with her remarks.

“These may be her most tone-deaf remarks since she joked about her luxury freezer full of gourmet ice cream on a late night comedy show,” Mr Hasan wrote on Twitter.

Ms Pelosi, worth more than $100 million, is one of the richest members of Congress, although she’s not alone in her extreme wealth: a majority of Congress members are millionaires.  

On Sunday, after months of gridlock and hundreds of thousands of coronavirus-related deaths, legislators passed a new $900 billion aid package, the first major cash infusion since April, and much smaller than March’s $2.2 trillion appropriation.

It includes a $600 stimulus payment to adults earning up to $75,000, as well as reviving extended federal unemployment benefits at $300 per week and providing $284 billion more for the Paycheck Protection Program, a loan program for small businesses.

The new benefits, which also include more funding for social safety net programs that were set to expire, are well below original aid levels. Until July, federal unemployment benefits were good for $600 a week, and Americans got a $1,200 stimulus deposit in April. According to some analysis,  $600 wouldn’t be enough to cover the average rent for a family of four in any US state.  

The final sum  was also well below the $2.2 billion aid bill House Democrats passed earlier this year, and higher than some Republicans had argued was necessary.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell framed the agreement as a long-awaited glimmer of hope.

“We can finally report what our nation has needed to hear for a very long time,” Mr McConnell said Sunday night. “More help is on the way.”

But Democrats of all stripes framed the deal as only the beginning – while some said it was woefully insufficient.

“I am heartened to see members of Congress heed that message, reach across the aisle, and work together,” Mr. Biden said in a statement. “But this action in the lame-duck session is just the beginning. Our work is far from over.”

Rashida Tlaib, a progressive Democrat from Michigan, tore into the new deal as too little too late.

“How are the millions of people facing evictions, remain unemployed, standing in food bank & soup kitchen lines supposed to live off of $600? We didn't send help for 8 months,” she wrote on Twitter on Sunday. “This is not leadership. There is no compassion, just politics of greed and power.”

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