Liberal House Dem finds significant portions of COVID bill ‘embarrassing’ and uncomfortable

One of the House’s most liberal Democrats admitted Thursday that he finds portions of the massive $1.9 trillion COVID bill being pushed by his party “embarrassing,” while also claiming he’s “not comfortable” with other portions.

In an interview with CNN’s Poppy Harlow, Rep. Adriano Espaillat of New York noted that because of the sheer size of the legislation, it’s inevitable “there will be one line that will probably be somewhat embarrassing.”

As she reviewed items in the spending bill, she noted Democrats had earmarked $1.5 million for the Seaway International Bridge from New York to Canada as well as $100 million for the Bay Area Rapid Transit system in San Francisco, known as BART.

Harlow also pointed out that House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) remarked in a statement Wednesday, “Who said a subway to Silicon Valley has anything to do with COVID?”

“Are you comfortable with those in here?” Harlow asked.

“A lot of people will get into this ‘got you’ attitude about this provision, this budget,” Espaillat began, as Harlow interrupted.

“It’s not ‘gotcha,’ it’s what, it’s there, I actually went back and read it,” she said, holding up a page of the bill that was marked with a yellow highlighter.

“I’m not saying you’re doing that, I’m saying that in any bill that has $1.9 trillion there will be one line that will probably be somewhat embarrassing,” the New York Democrat responded.

“That’s $101.5 million of taxpayer money,” Harlow insisted, “and I’m just saying, are you comfortable with it?”

“I’m not comfortable with it, I’m never comfortable with it,” Espaillat replied.

“Alright,” said Harlow.

The New York Democrat went on to say he believes that the amount of the bill is appropriate, given the economic state of the country — parts of it, anyway — as the pandemic drags on.

Republicans, however, have dubbed the majority of the bill as a taxpayer-funded giveaway to blue states and Democratic constituencies, while roughly half the bill contains money for some measure of COVID relief for businesses and Americans.

The legislation also contains funding for COVID vaccinations and for local health agencies, airlines, and small businesses particularly hurt by the pandemic such as restaurants and bars.

But the majority of spending — about $1.1 trillion — will not go directly into COVID-related relief. Hundreds of billions will go to Democratic states and cities that have had budget shortfalls for years, long before the pandemic.

The House appears set to pass the massive spending bill on Friday, though one of its key provisions — a gradual increase in the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour — has been deemed inappropriate by the Senate Parliamentarian and thus cannot be included in a final bill, due to a procedural problem.

The parliamentarian ruled that the Senate cannot include the minimum wage provision if Democrats are going to use the budget reconciliation process so as to avoid a Senate Republican filibuster.

Nevertheless, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) vowed that the minimum wage increase would remain in the House’s version.

Her GOP counterpart and California colleague, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, dubbed the pork-laden spending bill “The Pelosi Payoff.”

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Jon Dougherty

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