Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Says She May Not Vote For Proposed Small-Business Relief Bill Over ‘Insulting’ Lack of Funding

The next coronavirus relief package may not have Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s vote.

“We have not seen the final text of this bill, but what I can say is that if it matches up with what has been reported, I will not support this bill personally,” the New York Democrat said on Monday.

“I’m not speaking for our caucus, I’m not speaking for our delegation, I’m not speaking for anybody,” Ocasio-Cortez added. “But as the person who is representing the most impacted district in the country, my constituents are upset.”

Congress is working on a small-business relief bill that will provide more federal aid for the Paycheck Protection Program. According to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the bill’s proposed framework contains $350 billion for small-business relief programs, $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion to help states set up testing and to reopen local economies. However, the legislation has not been finalized yet.

“It is insulting to think we can pass such a small amount of money in the context of not knowing when Congress is even going to reconvene and pass such a small amount of money, pat ourselves on the back and then leave town again,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

Her remarks were made during a virtual press conference held by progressive leaders in Congress—including fellow House “squad” members Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib—to outline their demands for “Phase 4” of the coronavirus legislation.

Their #PutPeopleFirst campaign calls for $2,000 in direct monthly payments for Americans over 16, eviction protections and increased food aid. It would also enact a vote-by-mail requirement for the 2020 elections. The earliest that Phase 4 of the coronavirus relief could be done is May 4, when lawmakers return to Washington, D.C., after their recess.

New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks at a press conference at Corona Plaza in Queens on April 14.
Scott Heins/Getty

Representative Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from Washington state, agreed that it may be “difficult” to support the small-business relief package this week. But she didn’t go so far as to reject it, saying she has to see what the bill’s final version ends up looking like.

Key negotiators on the interim relief package expressed optimism that a deal could be reached early this week. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell amended the chamber’s schedule to set up a Tuesday meeting.

“Since this is so urgent, I have asked that the Senate meet again tomorrow in a new session that was not previously scheduled, and the Democratic leader has agreed to my request. Colleagues, it is past time, past time, to get this done for the country,” the Kentucky Republican said Monday.

Ocasio-Cortez slammed Congress for being out of session amid the global health crisis, stating that she’s “not here with the luxury of time” or to support “a $5 bill.”

“Incrementalism is not helpful in this moment…it’s like putting a Band-Aid on an enormous wound,” she said during the press conference. “We have to make sure we demand meaningful change and meaningful assistance for working families.”

The freshman lawmaker represents New York’s 14th District, which is in the Bronx and Queens. New York is now the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis in the United States. As of Monday, the Empire State had 248,000 confirmed cases and 14,347 deaths.

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