The "enormous suffering" that has killed more than 74,000 Americans provides Democrats leverage on legislation addressing the coronavirus, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D., Wash.) told the liberal website Vox on Wednesday.
"When you think about traditional situations of crisis ... whoever the ruling party is in the White House, that individual has this enormous opportunity to bring people together because that's what people want in a crisis," Jayapal said. "None of that has happened.... For me, the leverage is that there is enormous suffering, and if we do not respond with the boldness and the scale that this crisis demands, then that suffering will continue."
Jayapal faced criticism from conservatives in April when she warned Democrats were "giving away leverage" if they passed a clean bill replenishing the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides forgivable loans to small businesses reeling from the pandemic. Democrats held up funding for weeks before they agreed to a $484 billion bill that also included additional aid for hospitals and testing.
Jayapal echoed previous calls from Democrats, including California governor Gavin Newsom (D.) and House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D., S.C.), to see the deadly disease as an opportunity to push liberal policies.
Jayapal defended her earlier reference to leverage, calling the Republican response to the pandemic insufficient.
"How do we respond to the scale of the suffering? If we are just responding to one piece of it, but we are giving away the thing that Republicans are sort of hanging their hat on, then what brings them back to the table for negotiation?" she asked. "I think it’s important for us to not allow ourselves to be pulled into a place where we don’t define the agenda, given that we are the ones that seem to be put in the position of really defining what the solution is going to land on."
More than 74,000 Americans have died, and 33 million people have lost their jobs in the past two months.