All Four Iowa Democratic Senate Candidates Reject Pelosi's Coronavirus Bill

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi / Getty Images
May 20, 2020

All four of Iowa's Democratic Senate candidates said they would not support House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D., Calif.) latest coronavirus relief bill during a primary debate Tuesday.

Progressives Eddie Mauro and Kimberly Graham, both of whom support far-left policies such as the Green New Deal and Medicare for All, agreed the bill's current form was unacceptable. Theresa Greenfield, who has the backing of national party leaders, questioned "how we're going to pay for it." Navy veteran Mike Franken said that while he appreciates Pelosi's "leadership," he found the legislation to be unrefined.

Despite their differences, the primary candidates—who reflect both the business-friendly and far-left wings of the Democratic Party—agreed they would not vote for the bill if they served in the Senate today. They are not alone in their opposition. A number of vulnerable House Democrats voted against the bill, including Reps. Abby Finkenauer (Iowa), Kendra Horn (Okla.), Xochitl Torres Small (N.M.), Ben McAdams (Utah), and Abigail Spanberger (Va.), who are among the top targets for Republicans looking to regain the House majority in November. Progressive Rep. Pramila Jayapal (Wash.) also voted against the bill.

The pushback against Pelosi from a wide range of liberals could hurt Democrats' ability to pin the legislation's delay in the Senate on Republicans. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has already attempted to do so. The New York senator issued a statement before the divided House vote that touted the HEROES Act and criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) for downplaying the need to "act immediately" on a new coronavirus relief bill.

"The American people need their government to act strongly, boldly and wisely, and this new legislation is just what this crisis demands," he said. Many of his partymates appear to disagree.

House Democrats voted to pass the $3 trillion, 1,800-page HEROES Act on Friday, three days after Pelosi released the legislation. It contains a number of Democratic policy priorities, including stimulus checks for illegal immigrants, tax relief for the ultra-wealthy, and $25 billion for the struggling U.S. Postal Service. While the provisions are likely an attempt to satisfy both sides of her caucus, they could continue to unite the two in opposition to the bill. House Democrats on Friday defeated a Republican-led effort to strike the bill's illegal immigrant stimulus provision. Thirteen Democrats broke party ranks in that vote.

During the Iowa debate Tuesday, Mauro said the bill "needs more work." Graham said it needs to "provide much more help for truly small businesses." Greenfield said she "certainly wouldn't support it" and would "keep working" if she were in the Senate. Franken said the bill needs to be "more refined going forward."

Pelosi's bill almost certainly will not pass the Senate in its current form. Any relief package that enjoys wide bipartisan support will likely come from negotiations between Schumer and McConnell. The Kentucky Republican secured a 96-0 vote on the CARES Act in March following a lengthy back and forth.

Pelosi dragged her feet after that Senate vote, delaying an immediate vote in favor of a "good debate on the floor," though she blamed the bill's delay entirely on Republicans. She had previously faced bipartisan criticism after unveiling her own relief package two days before the Senate vote. The bill, meant to shore up an American economy decimated by coronavirus, used the word "diversity" 32 times and conditioned airline bailouts on decreased emissions. Should her latest attempt at coronavirus relief stall in the Senate, Democratic opposition could undermine her ability to blame Republicans again.

Neither Pelosi nor Schumer responded to a request for comment.