The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote Saturday on legislation to fund the U.S. Postal Service. This voting announcement triggered speculations that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could reenter negotiations on the next coronavirus relief package on Saturday as well. However, Pelosi has put all such speculations to rest, making clear her stance on the idea of passing smaller relief deals.
Pelosi won’t discuss coronavirus relief package
On Wednesday, a group of more than 100 Democrats signed a letter urging Pelosi to take up the coronavirus relief package on Saturday. The letter spearheaded by Reps. Scott Peters (Calif.), Derek Kilmer (Wash.) and Don Beyer (Va.) specifically asked Pelosi to call for a vote on legislation to extend the unemployment benefit and tie it to unemployment figures.
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However, Pelosi rejected the idea of a vote on any such coronavirus relief package on Saturday. She agreed that she personally supports the idea of tying the unemployment benefit to the unemployment rate rather than setting any expiration date. Despite that, she believes that voting on such legislation may not be in favor of the stimulus negotiations.
“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.
Further, Pelosi argued that if they vote on a coronavirus relief package to extend unemployment benefits, Senate Republicans could change it to add "poison pills." She said the best way is not to give Republicans legislation; rather, she argued that it should be “done by making them come into the negotiation."
Later on Thursday, Pelosi reiterated her stance on the coronavirus relief package in a letter to colleagues. In the letter, she said the ideas put forward by the members are “excellent” but they need to consider “their timing and strategic value.”
“They cannot come at the expense of addressing the priorities of the Heroes Act — particularly support for our heroes in state and local government and education, who are in crisis,” she said.
Why no vote on Saturday?
Pelosi’s reasoning for not discussing the coronavirus relief package suggests that if they vote on standalone bills such as unemployment benefits or stimulus checks, they would lose leverage when negotiating on important provisions, such as aid to state and local governments. Democrats also want to secure funding for the U.S. Postal Service to ensure the agency has resources to support mail-in voting.
However, it remains to be seen how long Pelosi will be able to resist calls from fellow Democrats for a coronavirus relief package. The letter from the 100+ Democrats is not the only request Pelosi has received this week.
On Wednesday, Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Iowa) urged Pelosi to come with “a simplified, straightforward COVID-19 relief package.” Separately, the Blue Dog Coalition, which is comprised of 26 fiscally-responsible Democrats, also asked Pelosi to resume negotiations on the stimulus package.