U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, stood out among 14 House Democrats who voted no Friday on a $3 trillion coronavirus aid package.
While other dissident Democrats were moderates who criticized the measure — dubbed the “HEROES Act” — as expensive and wasteful, Jayapal argued it didn’t go far enough to help distressed workers.
“At the core, our response from Congress must match the true scale of this devastating crisis. The Heroes Act—while it contains many important provisions—simply fails to do that,” Jayapal said in a statement announcing her opposition.
The Heroes Act passed the House on a 208-199 vote, with all but one Republicans voting in opposition. The proposal, which included another round of $1,200 direct payments to taxpayers, in addition to $1 trillion in aid to state and local governments, is considered dead in the Republican-controlled Senate, but may act as a starting point for negotiations.
Jayapal, who co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, was the group’s sole member to vote no, saying the legislation would not guarantee paychecks and healthcare for all Americans. She is a backer of Medicare for All, and has proposed a “Paycheck Guarantee Act” which would have the federal government temporarily cover the salaries of workers earning up to $100,000.
“More than 36 million people have filed for unemployment in only eight weeks and a full 40% of households earning less than $40,000 lost a job in March alone. Mass unemployment is a choice and we cannot wait to let the rate of unemployment rise to 40% or 50%, which it will do if we do not act boldly. This is the highest level of unemployment we have seen since the Great Depression and we cannot sit idly by and only offer half measures or let it rise,” Jayapal said.
She also said the package did not do enough to tie funding for states to comply with public health guidelines “so that businesses do not have to worry about putting their workers in harm’s way and re-opening before it is safe to do so.”
Washington’s other House members broke down along party lines.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, lambasted the Democratic plan as frivolous.
“This is a crisis, and I’m anxious to talk seriously about addressing the devastation happening to our economy, but this is not a serious bill,” she said, criticizing the measure as a “partisan wish list” which failed to fund programs for rural schools and the Forest Service, while giving “economic impact payments to illegal immigrants and funding for sanctuary cities.”
Washington’s other two Republican House members, Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Vancouver, and Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, also voted against the proposal.
Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Medina, said she supported the measure, which included provisions she had championed. Among those were an expansion of an employee-retention tax credit to cover up to $45,000 of a worker’s salary this year, increasing a tax credit for families with children, and $1 trillion in aid for state, local and tribal governments.
In a statement, DelBene said the House “continues to meet this historic crisis with bold action to protect Americans and ward off an economic catastrophe.” She added the bill “will make sure workers and families don’t have to choose between paying their rent and feeding their children…”
Rep. Denny Heck, D-Olympia, praised the bill’s inclusion of $100 billion in emergency rental assistance which he had championed. “This legislation will bring desperately needed relief to families who can’t make next month’s rent,” he said in a statement.
The state’s other Democratic U.S. House members also voted in favor of the bill, including Rep. Adam Smith, D-Bellevue; Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett; Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor; and Rep. Kim Schrier, D-Sammamish.