Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) sharply criticized the Biden administration after it agreed to lower the income eligibility for $1,400 stimulus checks in the COVID-19 economic relief package currently being debated in Congress.
The $1,400 checks, the third round of payments to Americans during the pandemic, will be sent in full to every individual earning $75,000 or less per year, and to every couple earning less than $150,000. Originally, the checks were planned to phase out with lower payments for those who made higher incomes, with individuals earning $100,000 or more and couples earning $200,000 being ineligible for payments of any kind.
Following demands for changes from the Republicans, as well as some criticisms from right-wing Democrats like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), the Biden White House relented.
Under the new terms of the agreement, phaseouts will still occur at $75,000 and $150,000 per individual or couple, respectively — but any individual earning more than $80,000 per year, and couples earning more than $160,000 annually, will not be eligible for any phased-out stimulus payment, a move that means millions of Americans who were previously eligible for such relief will be left out of this round of checks.
Ocasio-Cortez, one of the most prominent members of the Democratic Socialists of America in Congress, expressed dismay over the fact that the Biden administration would provide fewer payments to Americans than had the Trump administration.
“Conservative Dems have fought so the Biden admin sends fewer & less generous relief checks than the Trump admin did,” she tweeted on Wednesday. “It’s a move that makes little-to-no political or economic sense, and targets an element of relief that is most tangibly felt by everyday people.”
“An own-goal,” Ocasio-Cortez added, referencing a soccer term in which a player scores a goal on themselves, benefiting the opposing team.
In a separate tweet, the New York Democrat elaborated on how frustrating it was that the stimulus package was being watered down. Beyond lowering income eligibility for stimulus checks, the bill is unlikely to include a $15 federal minimum wage hike when it reaches President Joe Biden’s desk.
“We have a responsibility to show people in this country what a Democratic majority can do for working people,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “That means more generous relief checks, $15 min wage, ending the filibuster to protect our democracy. It’s a once-in-generation shot, and we need to legislate like it.”
Other Democrats within the House appeared more conciliatory.
“What we did over here [in the House] was something that I wish the Senate would just accept,” Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts) told The Hill. “But they have their own realities that they have to deal with. It’s not what I would have preferred, but we have to get this package done.”
“I don’t like it, many others don’t like it. But we knew that going in, that the president’s relief plan was not going to get 100 percent of what we want,” Rep. Maxine Water said, in response to the new terms. “We knew that there probably was going to be a little give and take somewhere. And that may be it. And if so, we’ve got to live with it.”
But as Ocasio-Cortez has noted, Democrats have already compromised on relief checks.
In mid-January, Biden said he would push for checks of $1,400 instead of a full $2,000 as he had promised. The change was justified as a net $2,000 in payments, which counted the $600 check made in the weeks prior.
That rationale did not sit well with the New York congresswoman.
“$2,000 means $2,000. $2,000 does not mean $1,400,” Ocasio-Cortez said at the time.