The left struggles in coronavirus fight

“These are two really important provisions to keep people having a paycheck so that we can solve all of the problems that are going to happen economically with this coronavirus,” Pocan said during a recent Facebook Live event, referring to the paycheck guarantee program as well as his own push for a “work sharing” program that keeps workers on the payrolls with the federal government helping to pay some of wages.

“We will be advocating for them as a caucus to get them into the CARES 2 package,” Pocan said.

With Congress locked in its biggest fight over safety net programs in a generation, some progressives say they’re feeling a sense of hope. They see a federal government finally willing to spend massive sums on long-neglected health and social programs, and say it’s time to push for policies that would otherwise never stand a chance of a floor vote.

“The crisis has exposed real deficiencies in our health system, and I think points us in the way we need to go — in a way that a lot of people can accept now who were not necessarily fans of Bernie Sanders before,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who belongs to the progressive caucus, said in a recent interview.

“I think you’re going to see a very powerful movement across the country to invest in public health and invest in a strong government that can meet the needs of the country,” Raskin said.

Still, previous rounds of negotiations on coronavirus relief have left progressives feeling deflated, if not outright furious. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) called the last rescue package — which included $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion for testing on top of the small business aid — “insufficient.” A broad coalition of progressive groups called it “pathetic.”

Congress has given out $50 billion for the airline industry, but none for the U.S. Postal Service. National steakhouse and sandwich chains could easily unlock funds from the Paycheck Protection Program, but many barbershops and beauty salons could not.

A $500 billion fund for corporations, at the behest of Republicans, came with no restrictions to limit executive pay — a provision that Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) called “bullshit.” And even some of the watchdog protections that Democrats added have been virtually stripped away by President Donald Trump while lawmakers remain homebound.