02:48 GMT25 January 2021
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    The Republican president went off on the new coronavirus relief package put together by Congress on Tuesday, suggesting that the “disgraceful” bill had “almost nothing to do with Covid”, and asking lawmakers to bump the “ridiculously low” $600 in direct relief payments up to $2,000 while cutting out pork-barrel spending.

    The progressive wing of the Democrat Party has jumped aboard President Donald Trump’s proposal to increase a new Covid relief payment to Americans by more than 300 percent.

    “Let’s do it,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York wrote, saying she and Michigan congresswoman Rashida Tlaib had already co-written the Covid amendment for the $2,000 cheques and praising Trump for being “willing to support our legislation”.

    Tlaib, a fellow progressive, offered a more abrasive reply to Trump, asking him to send the bill back so Democrats could “put in the $2,000 we’ve been fighting for that your party has been blocking,” but also agreed to the idea.

    Independent democratic socialist Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders called the increased direct payment scheme “great!” and recalled that he first introduced the idea of a $2,000 per person direct payment earlier this year. Sanders also took a partisan shot at Senate leader Mitch McConnell from Kentucky, urging Trump to get the senator and his other “Republican friends to stop opposing it and we can provide working-class Americans with $2,000.”

    Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts took a similar approach, saying she was “100% on board” with the larger stimulus and asking McConnell if he and his party had “the heart” to “give the American people the relief they’ve needed for months.”

    House Speaker, the Democrat Nancy Pelosi of California, who initially supported stimulus containing less relief than Trump has publicly demanded, also relented and expressed support for the $2,000 offer, berating the Republicans, instead of her own party, and saying Democrats were “ready to bring this to the Floor this week by unanimous consent.”

    In September, before the presidential election, Pelosi told reporters that her party was withholding new relief because “all [Trump] wants is his name on a cheque that goes out.” Her remarks prompted a firestorm of criticism from conservatives, who accused the congresswoman of blocking much-needed relief for personal political gain.

    In October, as the coronavirus stimulus package continued to remain deadlocked, Trump tried to pressure Congress into approving a second, emergency stand-alone payment of $1,200, similar to the one Americans got earlier this year. Lawmakers rejected the idea.

    Leadership Challenge

    Pelosi is already facing a potential challenge to her leadership from an unlikely source, with standup comedian-turned-YouTube political talk show host Jimmy Dore urging progressive Democrats to withhold support for the 80-year-old House speaker unless she brings a single-payer, Medicare for All proposal to a vote on the House floor in January. Dore’s idea sparked an intra-party fracas, given the Democrats’ slimmed down majority in the new Congress, with supporters of the party’s progressive wing divided on how to proceed.

    In September, a Pew Research poll found that 63 percent of Americans supported the government providing health care coverage for all, with a whopping 88 percent of Democrats and Democrat-leaning voters supporting it. Centrist Democrat Joe Biden is opposed to the idea, citing its alleged high cost. President Trump supported a single-payer “Canadian-style” health care system in 2000 as a potential candidate for the Reform Party, but has since shifted his views after becoming a Republican, branding the idea of medicare for all or a public option as "socialism".


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