Roughly half of the Democrats in the House pushed back against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in a letter this week, calling on her to consider a stand-alone bill to extend enhanced federal unemployment benefits.
“Since the $600 supplement has expired, countless constituents have reached out to our offices, expressing heartbreaking stories, in which they must choose between paying for groceries or their car payment,” the Democrats wrote in a letter to Pelosi on Wednesday. The extra $600 per week in enhanced federal unemployment benefits, which was passed by Congress in response to the coronavirus pandemic, expired nearly three weeks ago.
Rebellion in the ranks
Speaker Pelosi, in an attempt to playball hardball in negotiations with Republicans and the White House, has refused to even discuss, let alone hold a vote on, any measure that would extend the additional unemployment benefits separately from the massive legislative package she’s attempting to pass off as coronavirus relief.
Democrats have criticized the action as insufficient, even though it would be better than the nothing that Pelosi has allowed to become the status quo.
Pelosi and other Democratic leaders still haven’t budged on negotiations. But now that Pelosi has called the House back into session from the August recess to address the supposed conspiratorial crisis at the U.S. Postal Service, about half of the speaker’s caucus are demanding that she also consider addressing the expired unemployment benefits in a separate bill.
Worker Relief and Security Act
More than half of House Democrats — 117, to be exact — signed on to the letter, calling for Pelosi to hold a vote on the Worker Relief and Security Act, Breitbart reported. They also called out the speaker for using the expired benefits as leverage in her negotiations.
“We owe it to people waiting to get back to work across the country not only to extend unemployment benefits to help them pay their bills, but to tie these benefits to economic conditions so workers are not held hostage by another cliff like this one,” the Democrats wrote.
“Specifically, the bill would extend the $600 weekly federal pandemic unemployment compensation (FPUC) for the duration of the national COVID-19 health emergency, and then continue and adjust the weekly federal unemployment compensation amount and number of available unemployment benefit weeks dependent on the state total unemployment rate,” the Democrats added.
Will Pelosi give in?
As of now, Pelosi does not appear to have been swayed by the urging of her caucus. The speaker and other Democratic House leaders let it be known on Thursday that they still had no intention of working on the expired unemployment benefits separate from the broader legislative package.
“I don’t think strategically it’s where we should go right now, because the Republicans would like to pass something like that and say forget about it,” Pelosi told PBS NewsHour. “Forget about state and local, forget about our investments in stopping the virus, forget about other initiatives that feed the food insecure children in our country, vote by mail initiatives, and the rest.”
Pelosi is clearly reluctant to give up her bargaining power, but it remains to be seen how long she can ignore the cries for assistance from the Americans who are facing economic ruin because of the coronavirus lockdowns.