• Michael McAuliff

AOC Draws Red Line Demanding Direct Payments In COVID Relief.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) laid down a red line to get her vote for any COVID relief package Tuesday night: direct payments and enhanced unemployment.


Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Shortly after Congress's four leaders -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy -- met to try and hash out a deal, AOC fired off a tweet backing progressives in demanding cash be sent directly to struggling Americans.


"I will not vote for a COVID package that doesn’t include survival payments and unemployment relief for the American people," Ocasio-Cortez said.


"It’s a red line. It’s also common sense," she said. "Sick + tired of Mitch McConnell & the GOP playing games with peoples’ lives for corporate handouts. It ends here."


The four leaders appeared to be starting with a package similar to a $748 billion proposal crafted by a bipartisan group of senators that leaves out the most contentious issues of aid for state and local governments and liability protections for corporations.


None of them leaving talks Tuesday night, however, offered any details of what they were zeroing in on, saying only that they hoped to have something soon, and that they were "trading paper."


"We're working, working, working. Work papers going back and forth," said Schumer.


"Tomorrow, we’ll be back early and we’ll be on schedule to get the job done," Pelosi told reporters shortly before midnight.


The direct payment demand has many supporters, but only Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) have been demanding them in the Senate.


Ocasio-Cortez's ultimatum came as Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said it was a key demand of her caucus, and that they had made Pelosi aware of it.


"The thing our constituents are asking us the most is: Will this package put money in our pockets. Will it help keep me in my home? Will I be able to feed my kids?" Jayapal said in a statement.


"Any package must include direct survival checks and enhanced unemployment assistance, the two most effective ways to get money directly to people," she said.


Sanders has warned that he will hold up action in the Senate if he and Hawley do not get a vote on a bill to provide direct payments, which could leave Congress working over the Christmas break, and having to pass another stopgap funding bill to keep government open past Dec. 18, when funding expires.


Ocasio-Cortez said he has no problem working through Christmas.

"If Congress needs to spend Christmas on the House floor, so be it," she tweeted. "People are getting kicked out of their homes. This help should not be partisan nor controversial. It is disgusting that the Senate GOP is holding financial help hostage to gain immunity for corps to harm workers."


It is unclear what impact the progressive demands will have. If Pelosi and the other leaders cut a deal that is supported by President Trump and Republicans, there would be plenty of votes for passage. Progressives would have to sway a large portion of the rest of the Democratic conference to have an impact.


It is also possible that the payments will be included, regardless. Some Senate Republicans have said they are open to them, though probably at a lower amount than the $1,200 for individuals and $500 for children that passed in the spring.