WASHINGTON—Congressional Democratic leaders on Nov. 12 demanded action on a stimulus deal amid a growing intra-party fight between progressives and more moderate Democrats after losing seats to Republicans in the House.
In a joint press conference with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) urged Republicans in Congress to “stop the circus” about the election results and start focusing on the COVID response.
Schumer said the $3.4 trillion HEROES Act passed by House Democrats in May “should be the starting point” in negotiations. The biggest change since the election day, he said, is that President Donald Trump has lost.
“That was an overwhelming referendum by the American people. So yes, we think there has been change. It should move things in our direction.”
Congress failed to pass a pandemic relief package as both sides disagreed on the size and scope of a deal after months of negotiations. The White House called for a targeted aid, which was rejected by Democrats.
The latest talks over a stimulus deal between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Pelosi broke down before the election. And it’s unclear whether Congress will act any time soon, or at least before new lawmakers are sworn into Congress in January.
On Oct. 2, the House Democrats passed a $2.2 trillion stimulus package, the updated HEROES Act. Mnuchin later offered a package worth $1.8 trillion, which was pushed back by Pelosi.
When asked if her position on the relief is the same as it was before the election, Pelosi said, “We’re in the same place—even more so with the pandemic. Look at these numbers. Look at these predictions from the scientific community.”
The United States reported more than 145,000 coronavirus infections on Nov. 11 and the number of people hospitalized topped 65,000 for the first time.
“What Joe Biden has gotten in this election was a mandate, a mandate to address the challenges that our country faces,” Pelosi said.
Democrats in the House managed to hold onto a majority but didn’t see the blue wave they had anticipated. Instead of gaining seats, Democrats suffered a defeat in the House, losing 6 seats so far. Some races are still to be decided.
And the balance of power in the Senate will be determined by Georgia’s runoff elections in January. However, neither of Georgia’s seats are likely to flip for the Democrats, according to forecasts.
The losses have sparked a fight between progressives and more moderate Democrats over whom to blame.
A memo by a group of progressive organizations that seeks to transform the Democratic Party accused Pelosi of “showing off” freezers full of expensive ice cream during the lockdown in April.
“When Democratic leaders make unforced errors like showing off two sub-zero freezers full of ice cream on national television or cozy up with Wall Street executives and corporate lobbyists while Trump tells voters we are the party of the swamp, it is not surprising that we lose,” the memo reads.
The progressive organizations have helped elect people like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
The loss in the House and infighting may weaken Democrats’ position during stimulus talks.
In response to Schumer and Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Nov. 12 said a relief package worth $500 billion would be more appropriate than a larger deal.
“My view is the level at which the economy is improving further underscores that we need to do something about the amount that we put on the floor in September and October—highly targeted at what the residual problems are,” McConnell told reporters.
“I gather they are looking at something dramatically larger. That’s not a place I think we’re willing to go. But I do think there needs to be another package.”
Wall Street analysts predict that a split Congress—with Democrats keeping the House and Republicans the Senate—will require both sides of the aisle to work together to reach a deal on stimulus, which may be smaller than markets had hoped for in a blue-wave scenario.
After the conclusion of the central bank’s two-day policy meeting on Nov. 5, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said that the U.S. economy would have a stronger recovery “if we can just get at least some more fiscal support when it’s appropriate.”