Pelosi’s last minute try to hijack the coronavirus stimulus package for a ‘Progressive Vision’

Every time the country faces a crisis, real or perceived, there is a rush in Congress to pass massive bills that go far beyond responding to the matter at hand. This time Pelosi went way beyond Politics showing her deviant and depraved self, followed by spineless Schumer.

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by James S. Robbins

You never let a serious crisis go to waste, as “Rahm’s Rule” puts it. Never was there a more concise summary of both the promise and dysfunction of American politics.

Every time the country faces a crisis, real or perceived, there is a rush in Congress to pass massive bills that go far beyond responding to the matter at hand. These phonebook-sized (if I can use an anachronism) emergency acts are too long and detailed for any legislator to read and fully comprehend, but you can bet they are stuffed with gimmicks, giveaways, sweetheart deals and ill-advised policies with no bearing on the crisis itself.

The latest example is the newly-introduced House version of the Pelosi “Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act,” intended to afford stimulus and stability in the face of the economic crisis fomented by COVID-19. The bill my provide some form of succor to the economy, but in the words of Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC), the crisis is also “a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision.”  In other words, coronavirus gives good cover to impose progressive requirements on stricken businesses and a society eager to see government simply act. And fast.

Liberal special interests

The 1119-page bill is Christmas in March for liberal special interests. It imposes racial and gender pay equity provisions, diversity on corporate boards, increased use of minority-owned banks by federal offices, and a grab-bag of other diversity-themed requirements. It includes $300 million for the National Endowment for the Arts and another $300 million to the National Endowment for the Humanities, assigning $35 million to the John F. Kennedy Center. Included another $300 million as a supplemental appropriation for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which funds PBS and which is facing shortfalls due to the coronavirus, the Democratic leadership says. Then there are the Retirement Plans for community newspapers which would change rules for community newspapers’ defined-benefit pension plans.

It increases the collective bargaining power for unions and
cancels the U.S. Postal Service's $11 billion in debt and gives it $20 billion in cash. For the global warming crowd there are increased fuel emission standards and required carbon offsets for airlines, plus tax credits for alternative energy programs. For the kids there is a provision for student loan payment deferment, and for the education bureaucrats who overcharge them a $9.5 billion giveaway to colleges and universities. It gives $100 million to juvenile justice programs, and suspends various aspects of enforcement of immigration laws. It mandates that the head of each federal department or agency “shall submit to Congress a report on the actions taken to increase the use of minority banks and minority credit unions to serve the financial needs of each such department or agency." It empowers the newly proposed COVID–19 Aid Oversight Panel to collect data on “employee demographics,” “supplier diversity,” “pay equity,” and “corporate board diversity" for any organization that receives federal funds in connection with the coronavirus pandemic.

Perhaps the most troubling sections of the bill are under the rubric ‘‘American Coronavirus/COVID–19 Election Safety and Security” or ‘‘ACCESS” Act. 

This section would impose requirements on states for early voting, voting by mail, required mailing of absentee ballots to everyone, ballot harvesting (i.e., having third parties deliver absentee ballots), online voter registration, same-day registration and other practices which undermine confidence in the integrity of the ballot. In these days of increasing threats to election security we should be moving rapidly back to in-person paper ballots, but this bill would be a radical step in the wrong direction.

It is hard quickly to root out whatever other aspects of this bill bear no relationship to COVID-19, but to its backers that is the point. We can’t really know what’s in it until they pass it, to paraphrase Speaker Pelosi on another such memorable occasion.

The politics of the Democratic proposal are not hard to figure. Democrats are concerned that the Coronavirus crisis could be a “9/11 moment” for President Trump, that people might put aside partisanship for a moment to rally around a leader trying his best to help the country cope.