Stimulus package negotiations should be made in public, says Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez

Stimulus package negotiations should be made in public, says Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has said the COVID-19 stimulus package negotiations should be made in public.

She tweeted: "The public should be able to see who is holding stimulus checks hostage & demanding immunity for big corporations exposing workers to COVID. The secrecy protects them. It’s harder to do these things without the closed door."

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the top Democratic congressional leaders embraced a $908 billion coronavirus relief framework -- a massive concession meant to prod President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans into accepting a compromise as covid cases spike and the economic recovery shows signs of faltering ahead of the holiday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement that “we believe the bipartisan framework introduced by Senators yesterday should be used as the basis for immediate bipartisan, bicameral negotiations.”

Before Wednesday, Democratic and Republican leaders had squared off for months, insisting on bills that the other side wouldn’t accept. Wednesday’s announcement by Pelosi and Schumer appeared to be the first time that leaders from one party agreed to back a proposal that had substantial support of members of the other party.

And the willingness to accept a potential bill totaling less than $1 trillion represents a significant step-down for the top Democrats, who had pushed for more than $3 trillion in new aid earlier this year.

President-elect Joe Biden has urged Congress and the Trump administration to pass immediate economic relief measures during the lame duck session of Congress, warning that the economy will continue to deteriorate before a vaccine is readily available. They have also signaled their intention to pursue a sweeping stimulus package after the inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021.

Democrats and Republicans rallied together to pass close to $3 trillion in economic aid earlier this year, but the bipartisan efforts fell apart after that as the election neared.

The recent surge in coronavirus cases and a recent spate of layoffs at airlines and other companies has created new concerns that the economy could weaken markedly later this year. Supporters have said economic relief is needed before vaccines are widely available in the United States sometime in the Spring of 2021.

The “emergency relief framework” released by the bipartisan group on Tuesday is light on details but outlines how to allocate $908 billion for struggling small businesses, state and local governments, and other parts of the economy hurt by COVID-19. The package would fund federal supplement unemployment benefits of $300 per week for millions of jobless Americans.

That assistance would cover at least from January until the end of March for the unemployed, according to one person familiar with the group’s work. No decision has been made yet on whether the benefits would retroactively cover the several prior months during which unemployment benefits have not been paid.

The framework includes $160 billion for state and local governments; $180 billion in aid for jobless Americans; and close to $300 billion in additional support for small businesses, including through another round of funding for the Paycheck Protection Program.

The proposal would also devote $82 billion for schools and education-needs; $26 billion for agricultural and nutritional assistance; $25 billion in rental assistance; $10 billion for the U.S. postal service; $10 billion for childcare; and $10 billion for rural broadband, among other areas.

The measure would not authorize another round of $1,200 stimulus checks. The Cares Act, which passed in March, authorized one round of these checks for more than 100 million Americans.