Moderate Democrats, especially those in swing districts, have been pressuring House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to pass another coronavirus relief bill, signaling that blaming the Senate Republicans and the White House for the inaction isn’t flying back home with their constituents who need help.
One of the boldest efforts of revolt came Tuesday when the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus revealed their $1.5 trillion coronavirus relief plan, with 25 Democrats breaking with their leadership and joining 25 Republicans on a compromise proposal.
Rep. Max Rose, D-N.Y., was among the backers of the plan and said his frustration with leadership’s failure to make a deal pales in comparison to the frustration of his constituents needing help. It’s been four months since the House passed its $3 trillion HEROES Act — which died in the GOP-led Senate — and now Rose and fellow frontline Democrats have been urging House leadership to put another bill on the floor that could actually become law.
“The pressure is loud and forthright and it is bipartisan in nature,” Rose told Fox News of the urging on both GOP and Democratic leadership to move a “real” bill. “Because that pressure is reflective of where the American people are. They are sick and tired of politics.”
Rep. Max Rose, D-N.Y.
“To the leadership, we said this very simple message: It’s time for you to stop playing games. Let’s stop the charade. Let’s stop this stupidity. Let’s put the country first.”
The Problem Solvers’ effort was designed to break the logjam on stalled coronavirus talks between Pelosi, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and the White House. Instead, it met with unified resistance from Pelosi and her leadership team.
In a rare move, all eight major Democratic committee chairs put out a joint statement Tuesday rejecting the bipartisan plan, saying it “falls short of what is needed to save lives and boost the economy.”
A national Democratic source said the move by the Problem Solvers Caucus Democrats “undermined” Pelosi’s negotiating position in trying to secure a robust coronavirus deal.
“The Problem Solvers Caucus’ play put Democrats in disarray and clearly undermined Schumer and Pelosi in such important negotiations,” the source told Fox News.
“That statement is highly unusual,” the source continued about the swift condemnation from Democratic chairs. “It shows how worried the Democratic leadership is that Pelosi is being undercut.”
Democrats took control of the House in 2018 thanks to flipping some 40 seats from red to blue. Those front-line members fighting for another term in office have been among the most outspoken about wanting a deal.
Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a Problem Solvers Caucus member who opposed the $3 trillion bill in May and flipped a GOP district, criticized Pelosi’s resistance to a smaller coronavirus package.
“What the House put forward months ago isn’t moving forward,” Spanberger, D-Va., said in urging for a different approach.
Virginia Rep. Abigail Spanberger speaking at a press conference sponsored by the Problem Solvers Caucus and the Common Sense Coalition to announce “principles for legislation to lower prescription drug prices” at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo by Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Other moderate Democrats, like Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., said members are starting to push the leadership to do something.
“You are seeing a level of anxiety rise within the members for there to be a deal,” Murphy said. “For there to be progress toward getting the deal done. And, hopefully, with that increased pressure, we will start to see negotiations start anew and start moving our way towards that.”
Feeling the concern from members, Pelosi told her caucus on a conference call Tuesday that she plans to keep the House in session until a deal is reached on a coronavirus relief proposal. One Democrat on the call confirmed that those in close races “were really pressuring [Pelosi] to get something done.”
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., later clarified that the commitment meant House leadership would stay in Washington and would call members back within 24 hours for a vote if there is an agreement.
Rose said the commitment from Pelosi shouldn’t be hailed as a breakthrough or “newsworthy.”
“This should just be how business is done in our nation’s capital as we fight to the American people,” said Rose, who is in a competitive race for his district in Staten Island and Brooklyn. “We should not stop until we put another bill on the floor of Congress. And then, quite frankly, we’ve got to send the message to Mitch McConnell that he’s got to do his damn job.”
McConnell, R-Ky., brought up a $300 billion GOP bill to the Senate floor last week, but Democrats blocked it from advancing, dismissing the partisan proposal as “emaciated.”
But McConnell has capitalized on the divisions among House Democrats. First, he highlighted a letter signed by more 100 House Democrats earlier this summer that urged Pelosi to pass extended unemployment benefits. Pelosi, in trying to secure a larger deal, said she wasn’t going to do piecemeal legislation.
“Even Speaker Pelosi’s own House Democrats are sick of her blocking COVID-19 relief,” McConnell tweeted Wednesday.
From the White House point of view, the Problem Solvers Caucus proposal that Pelosi doesn’t like moved the needle. Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said Wednesday the $1.5 trillion proposal was encouraging and it should provide a “foundation” to come back to the table with Pelosi and Schumer.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., joined by Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y., speaks to media on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Trump also appeared to give the GOP a greenlight for higher spending. The highest offer on paper Senate Republicans have made so far was a $1 trillion package in July that failed to advance.
“Go for the much higher numbers, Republicans, it all comes back to the USA anyway,” Trump tweeted.
The last offer Democratic leadership made before talks broke down was over $2 trillion — down $1 trillion from the more than $3 trillion HEROES Act passed in May that was chock-full with the Democratic priorities and amounted to the biggest spending bill in congressional history.
Schumer and Pelosi said they were “encouraged” by Trump’s statement for more spending and want the GOP to meet them halfway.
“We are encouraged that after months of the Senate Republicans insisting on shortchanging the massive needs of the American people, President Trump is now calling on Republicans to ‘go for the much higher numbers’ in the next coronavirus relief package,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement Wednesday. “We look forward to hearing from the President’s negotiators that they will finally meet us halfway with a bill that is equal to the massive health and economic crises gripping our nation.”
Fox News’ Chad Pergram contributed to this report.