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Progressives Urge Democrats to Vote Down Conservative 'Pay-Go' Plan

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks at Kennedy School's Institute of Politics at Harvard University in December. (Charles Krupa / AP)

After the incoming House Democratic majority’s newly released rules package made clear that presumptive Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is moving to ram through a fiscally conservative “pay-go” measure despite widespread grassroots opposition, progressives condemned the proposed rule as a harmful “roadblock” to a bold agenda and urged their representatives to vote it down.

“In order for pay-go to go into effect, it needs to pass the House,” Warren Gunnels, policy director for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), pointed out on Twitter. “If some 18 Democrats vote no, it fails. The vote will take place on Thursday. Will enough progressives have the courage to vote no on the first roadblock to Medicare for All, Green New Deal, and college for all? Let’s see.”

In a petition pressuring House Democrats to vote against any rules package containing pay-go, Social Security Works declared that the proposed provision “would leave Democrats fighting for working families with one arm tied behind their backs.”

“Reject the pay-go rules that perpetuate deficit scaremongering and bolster claims that we need to cut Social Security and Medicare,” reads the group’s petition, which currently has over 23,800 signatures.

If implemented, pay-go would require all new spending to be offset by budget cuts or tax hikes. Such a restriction, progressive lawmakers and economists argue, would unnecessarily hamstring the House Democratic majority’s ability to pursue the bold agenda that voters demanded in the November midterms

“This is a terrible move from Pelosi and Democratic Party leadership and a slap in the face for movements demanding justice and prosperity for all—not just a privileged few,” argued Justice Democrats communications director Waleed Shahid.

“There’s enormous appetite in the Democratic Party and among all Americans for major public investment to tackle our nation’s major crises: deepening inequality and structural racism and climate disaster,” Shahid added in a statement. “Pelosi and the Democratic Party leadership’s support of pay-go makes actually solving these crises all but impossible. The Democratic Party leadership is unilaterally disarming and shooting themselves in the foot.”

Just hours after the House Democrats’ proposed rules package was made public, Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)—who will be sworn in on Thursday—and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) became the first lawmakers to vow to vote no if pay-go is included.

In a tweet, Khanna declared: “I will be voting no on the rules package with pay-go. It is terrible economics. The austerians were wrong about the Great Recession and Great Depression. At some point, politicians need to learn from mistakes and read economic history.”

Echoing Khanna’s opposition, Ocasio-Cortez announced that she will also oppose the rules package, arguing that pay-go is “a dark political maneuver designed to hamstring progress on healthcare and other legislation.”

“We shouldn’t hinder ourselves from the start,” Ocasio-Cortez concluded.

As Common Dreams reported at the time, the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) in December successfully killed a deeply regressive, Pelosi-backed tax rule that would have made progressive policy priorities like Medicare for All and a Green New Deal impossible to fund.

With a vote on the rules package slated for Thursday, advocacy groups and policy experts argued that the pay-go fight is another chance for the growing and emboldened CPC to flex its muscle and signal that it is prepared to fight for an ambitious agenda.

“We urge them to recognize that this era calls for bold leadership,” declared Social Security Works. “That means improved Medicare for All, expanded Social Security, and taking on Big Pharma to lower prescription drug prices. Our government’s priority should be delivering results for the people, not appeasing the Wall Street Journal editorial page.”

“Let’s stop this fiscal madness in its tracks,” concluded Stony Brook University economics professor Stephanie Kelton, who has urged Democrats to ditch their deficit obsession and unleash “the power of the public purse” on behalf of progressive policies. “We need a flexible budget to rebalance our economy.”

Jake Johnson / Common Dreams

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