A small but expanding group of Democrats across the party’s ideological spectrum are preparing to push Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to accept the $1.8 trillion coronavirus economic stimulus plan proposed by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin last week, citing escalating concerns about unemployment and ongoing struggles of Americans.
Two members of the Democratic caucus, Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) and Peter Welch (D-VT), have privately discussed their desires for the California leader to accept the deal put before them and are now ready to make those pleas public, The Daily Beast has learned.
While many Democrats are happy to back Pelosi’s position, those angling for a faster alternative are hoping to create a pressure campaign within the caucus.
“Rep. Welch does not want to wait,” spokesman Lincoln Peek told The Daily Beast on Wednesday evening in reference to a question about moving forward with a deal below the $2.2 trillion proposal favored by House Democratic leadership. “Welch has consistently pushed to come to a deal as soon as possible as long as it moves us forward in trying to address the public health and economic crises.”
“The suffering is real, the need is urgent, and we need aid now,” Peek said.
Last Friday, Mnuchin offered Democrats $400 billion less than the version they had passed in the House earlier in October.
“I can confirm she’s open to the 1.8 trillion,” a source familiar with Spanberger’s thinking told The Daily Beast. “She’s been pretty vocal about the need for a bi-partisan package. This kind of falls in that lane.”
Spanberger, a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, views ongoing unemployment as her motivation in nudging the top Democrat in her caucus on the issue, the source said. “The only way people are going to see relief right now is if both parties can agree.”
Spanberger is also part of the Problem Solvers Coalition, a group of moderates in both parties that has been trying to lock down some type of deal across the aisle for weeks. In a caucus-wide call with Democrats last month, Spanberger reportedly said her intention is “to actually do my goddamn job” and bring a bill to the House floor.
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), a prominent progressive leader, was the first to call on Pelosi to make a deal based on the Trump administration’s proposal, though he left the door open to potentially amending certain aspects pushed by the White House. In an interview with CNN on Wednesday afternoon, he also hinted at the possibility of other Democrats coming forward. “A lot of members want a deal,” he said.
“He is simply speaking about the concerns of those in his district who do not have food for their kids, a paycheck to make rent, or the means to keep their restaurant open. It is literally his job to represent them and make sure their voices are being heard,” said Khanna’s deputy chief of staff Heather Purcell, adding that he respects Pelosi’s “skill as a negotiator.”
On Tuesday, Pelosi brushed off Khanna’s remarks in a widely-circulated interview with the same network. During the segment, host Wolf Blitzer asked pointed questions about why she did not want to accept the offer as it stands, evoking Khanna’s name as an example.
“Let me just quote Ro Khanna, a man you know well. I assume you admire him. He’s a Democrat,” Blitzer said. “He said ‘people in need can’t wait until February, $1.8 trillion is significant and more than twice the Obama stimulus. Make a deal, put the ball in McConnell’s court.’”
After ostensibly accusing Blitzer of covering for Republicans, Pelosi said: “Ro Khanna, that’s nice. That isn’t what we’re going to do and nobody’s waiting till February.”