In 'major win for progressives,' former CFPB Chief Richard Cordray tapped to oversee federal student loans

Advocacy groups and progressives in Congress on Tuesday applauded the Biden administration's appointment of Richard Cordray to oversee federal student loans and financial aid, expressing hope that the former head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will encourage the White House to offer much-needed relief to the country's 45 million student borrowers.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona announced Monday that Cordray will serve as chief operating officer of Federal Student Aid, overseeing student loan servicing companies and the regulation of universities that receive federal student aid.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), an ally of Cordray who formed the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), was among those who applauded the appointment.

"I'm very glad he'll be protecting student borrowers and bringing much-needed accountability to the federal student loan program," Warren said of Cordray.

At CFPB, Cordray demonstrated a commitment to public service by working to rein in the payday lending industry, cutting lenders' revenue by two-thirds, according to the agency. During his tenure, the bureau returned nearly $12 billion to 29 million American consumers.

Cordray also oversaw the bureau when it brought several legal actions against for-profit education institutions and filed a major lawsuit against Navient, one of the largest federal student loan servicers.

His appointment comes amid calls from Warren, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and other lawmakers who are demanding that President Joe Biden cancel up to $50,000 per borrower in student debt—without relying on the approval of Congress—under Section 432(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965.

Cardona said Monday that the Education and Justice Departments are examining the possibility of canceling student debt, and Cordray declined to say whether student loan cancelation will take place with him at the helm of the Office of Federal Student Aid, but advocates expressed hope that his appointment is a "major win for progressives" on the issue.

"Cordray understands the challenges that student borrowers face, and unlike [former Education Secretary Betsy] DeVos, we are confident he will fight on behalf of borrowers rather than making their lives even more difficult," said Maria Langholz, spokesperson for the Demand Progress Education Fund. "In this role he must not only undo the disastrous legacy of DeVos but play a key role in making massive student debt forgiveness a reality."

Cordray now holds "the single most important job in the executive branch for canceling student debt," said Jeff Hauser, executive director of the Revolving Door Project. "We expect Cordray to take these needed reforms seriously given his excellent history at the CFPB."

"That said, we won't hesitate to be critical if needed," he added.

Other issues Cordray is likely to work on at the Education Department include reforming targeted loan forgiveness programs aimed at public service workers, borrowers with disabilities, and people who have been defrauded by colleges; and managing the department's decision to restart monthly federal student loan and interest payments following a pause that has been in place since March 2020, in light of the pandemic. The pause is currently scheduled to last until September 30.

Third round of coronavirus relief checks led to largest monthly rise in household income since 1959

The third round of coronavirus relief checks, which have been sent to 159 million households so far, were directly linked to an historic rise in household income, according to reporting by the Wall Street Journal.

Household income rose 21.1% in March after President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package into law, following months of stonewalling by Republicans, who spent much of 2020 claiming that additional aid to help families struggling to pay for housing and other necessities was unaffordable.

The immediate rise in household income from the previous month represented the largest increase since 1959, the Journal reported, citing data from the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis.

"This is what happens when you opt for investing in working people over trickle-down economics," said the grassroots organization Tax March.

The report follows two studies conducted last year after the first round of relief checks were shown to markedly alleviate poverty—illustrating the fact that "poverty is a policy choice," according to advocacy group People for Bernie.

The new data regarding the latest round of checks shows "the fiscal stimulus was a roaring success," tweeted CNBC reporter Carl Quintanilla.

Households were promptly able to save significantly more money following the release of the checks, with the rate of personal savings increasing from 13.9% in February to 27.6% in March, according to the Journal.

Spending rates also saw the largest month-to-month increase since last summer, rising by 4.2%.

"Stimulus checks work," tweeted Baltimore attorney Katelynn Brennan.

As NBC News reported earlier this month, a plurality of households have been spending their relief checks on groceries, rent, and other necessities. Forty-five percent of respondents to a survey by Bankrate.com said their checks went to monthly bills, while 32% said they were using them to pay down debts.Just 13% reported they were using the money for discretionary spending.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told reporters that while higher rates of spending could drive inflation in the coming months, "an episode of one-time price increases as the economy reopens is not the same thing as, and is not likely to lead to, persistently higher year-over-year inflation into the future."

"Indeed, it is the Fed's job to make sure that that does not happen," Powell said.

Critics blast Oklahoma GOP for passing 'absolutely insane' law shielding drivers who run over protesters

The Oklahoma chapter of the ACLU is vowing to fight the state's Republican leadership following Gov. Kevin Stitt's signing of a law that will grant immunity to drivers who unintentionally hurt or kill protesters—while holding demonstrators accountable for threatening public safety instead.

"The ACLU of Oklahoma along with organizers on the ground are in a fight to end the systemic violence inflicted on our Black and Brown communities, and our government's escalating attacks on protests against racism and police brutality should concern everyone," said Nicole McAfee, the group's director of policy and advocacy.

"We are in serious conversations with partners on our next steps to protect Oklahomans' right to free speech," she added. "The power of protest belongs with the people, and we will not tolerate these attempts to silence Oklahomans."

Stitt signed the legislation, H.B. 1674, into law on Wednesday—the same day he signed H.B. 1643, which makes it a crime to post anything online that includes personally identifying information about a law enforcement officer. Examples could include photos of police officers wearing name badges, according to local ABC News affiliate KOCO-TV.

"They are targeting groups of protesters who are just wanting to use their freedom of speech, passing bills that will intimidate them." —Adriana Laws, Collegiate Freedom and Justice Coalition

The governor aims to stop "people from using their First Amendment rights," the Collegiate Freedom and Justice Coalition said.

"[The state's GOP lawmakers] are targeting groups of protesters who are just wanting to use their freedom of speech, passing bills that will intimidate them," CFJC founder Adriana Laws told The Guardian, "passing bills that decriminalize the murder of protesters, which is absolutely insane."

While classifying the obstruction of a highway or street as a misdemeanor that could carry a sentence of up to a year in jail and fines as high as $5,000, H.B. 1674 will protect drivers "who unintentionally causes injury or death" from being held criminally or civilly liable if authorities believe the driver was "fleeing from a riot."

"This is America," tweeted former labor secretary Robert Reich, expressing disbelief regarding the new law, which is one of several anti-protest measures proposed and passed by Republican state lawmakers in the past year.

A law granting drivers immunity for hurting or killing protesters was also recently passed in Iowa, while Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis boasted that he signed "the strongest anti-looting, anti-rioting, pro-law-enforcement piece of legislation in the country" this week—a law which critics warned could result in felony charges for protesters if a demonstration becomes disorderly or violent, even for protesters who don't participate in the violence.

"This is consistent with the general trend of legislators' responding to powerful and persuasive protests by seeking to silence them rather than engaging with the message of the protests," Vera Eidelman, a lawyer at the ACLU, told the New York Times Wednesday. "If anything, the lesson from the last year, and decades, is not that we need to give more tools to police and prosecutors, it's that they abuse the tools they already have."

In Oklahoma, author and activist Rebecca Nagle tweeted, Republicans appear to simply be making official their intent to give favorable treatment to those who harm protesters while punishing people for exercising their First Amendment rights.

"I was at a Black Lives Matter march last summer in Tulsa where a truck drove through the crowd, struck several people, and in the commotion a man was pushed over a bridge and paralyzed," Nagle tweeted. "The driver was never charged—without this law in place."

USA Today reported that demonstrators had been hit more than 100 times by drivers last summer as racial justice protests spread across the country.

Joe Manchin condemned for refusal to back $2,000 survival checks after Democrats win the Senate

Days after the crucial victories of new Democratic Sens.-elect Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock were credited in large part to clear messaging about the need for a Democrat-controlled Senate in order to send $2,000 checks to American households, Sen. Joe Manchin on Friday provoked scorn Friday by saying he would "absolutely not" support providing such relief.

Manchin told the Washington Post he believes vaccine distribution should be "job number one" for Democrats, despite the fact that additional funding for coronavirus vaccines is expected to be included in the package the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden is developing.

"Joe Manchin is worth an estimated $7 million. At least 70% of West Virginia households would qualify for $2,000 checks."
—Andrew Perez, Daily Poster

The conservative West Virginia Democrat expressed concern that people who have not lost income at this point as a result of the pandemic would potentially receive $2,000 checks, in addition to those who currently are in dire need of relief.

"How is the money that we invest now going to help us best to get jobs back and get people employed? And I can't tell you that sending another check out is gonna do that to a person that's already got a check," Manchin told the Post.

As more than 125 economists from institutions including Harvard, Princeton, and Berkeley told lawmakers in November, direct payments to a wide swath of American households "are one of the quickest, most equitable, and most effective ways to get families and the economy back on track" amid 6.7% unemployment and an economic crisis which has caused more than half of American adults to lose income, left nearly 26 million people unable to afford basic essentials like groceries, and caused an estimated 12 million renters to fall thousands of dollars behind in their rent payments.

The legislation Biden's team is currently working on would include extended unemployment benefits as well as direct payments and funding for state and local governments. Under the control of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who opposes $2,000 payments and funding for states and cities, the Senate has failed to pass legislation including more than $600 payments since last March, when the CARES Act was passed.

Gaining a Democratic majority in the upper chamber has been thought to be the key to ensuring people across the country receive meaningful aid after nearly 10 months of receiving no direct payments, and nearly half a year without the enhanced unemployment benefits included in the CARES Act, which were credited with reducing poverty but were allowed to lapse by the Republican Party last summer.

Ossoff and Warnock's victories in Georgia, following two months of tireless get-out-the-vote efforts by organizers with groups including Mijente and the New Georgia Project, give Democrats control of the senate, with a 50-50 split and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris acting as tiebreaker if the Democrats use Senate rules allowing them to pass the coronavirus relief package with a simple majority.

With the close margin, the loss of Manchin's vote could force Biden to drastically change his proposal, the Post reported—just after he called on Georgia voters to support Ossoff and Warnock to make sure "those $2,000 checks will go out the door, restoring hope and decency and honor for so many people who are struggling right now."

Saikat Chakrabarti, co-founder of Justice Democrats, denounced Manchin for coming out against the $2,000 payments—saying the senator's comment "already hurts the Democrats," even before the actual vote takes place.

"We won Georgia because we promised $2,000 checks," Chakrabarti tweeted. "Joe Manchin is threatening the Democratic majority in the Senate if he goes against it, and for no reason."

Daily Poster editor Andrew Perez noted that by threatening the party's ability to ensure Americans receive relief checks, Manchin will do measurable harm to his own constituents, 40% of whom are facing food insecurity.

"Joe Manchin should talk to the working class West Virginians he's supposed to represent and see what they think about him saying 'absolutely not' to the $2,000 relief checks that 80% of Americans support in the middle of the worst economic pain since the Great Depression," added Democracy Spring founder Kai Newkirk.

People for Bernie suggested that with 78% of Democratic voters, 60% of independents, and 54% percent of Republicans supporting $2,000 checks, according to Data for Progress, Manchin will ultimately harm his own political career should he vote against the legislation.

"No one will forget," the group tweeted.

Amid surging poverty, 500 richest grew $1.8 trillion wealthier in 2020

Bloomberg's year-end report on the wealth of the world's billionaires shows that the richest 500 people on the planet added $1.8 trillion to their combined wealth in 2020, accumulating a total net worth of $7.6 trillion.

The Bloomberg Billionaires Index recorded its largest annual gain in the list's history last year, with a 31% increase in the wealth of the richest people.

The historic hoarding of wealth came as the world confronted the coronavirus pandemic and its corresponding economic crisis, which the United Nations last month warned is a "tipping point" set to send more than 207 million additional people into extreme poverty in the next decade—bringing the number of people living in extreme poverty to one billion by 2030.

Even in the richest country in the world, the United States, the rapidly widening gap between the richest and poorest people grew especially stark in 2020.

As Dan Price, an entrepreneur and advocate for fair wages, tweeted, the 500 richest people in the world amassed as much wealth in 2020 as "the poorest 165 million Americans have earned in their entire lives."

Nine of the top 10 richest people in the world live in the United States and own more than $1.5 trillion. Meanwhile, with more than half of U.S. adults living in households that lost income due to the pandemic, nearly 26 million Americans reported having insufficient food and other groceries in November—contributing to a rise in shop-lifting of essential goods including diapers and baby formula. About 12 million renters were expected to owe nearly $6,000 in back rent after the new year.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk enjoyed an historic growth in wealth last year, becoming the second richest person in the world and knocking Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates down to third place. Musk's total net worth grew by $142 billion in 2020, to $170 billion—the fastest creation of personal wealth in history, according to Bloomberg.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is at the top of the list, with a net worth of $190 billion. Bezos added more than $75 billion to his wealth in 2020, as the public grew dependent on online shopping due to Covid-19 restrictions and concern for public health.

While Bezos and a select few others in the U.S. have amassed historic gains in personal wealth in the last year, the federal government has yet to extend much in the way of meaningful assistance to struggling Americans. The Republican-led Senate on Friday continued to stonewall a vote on legislation that would send $2,000 checks to many American households.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) denounced the proposal as "socialism for rich people" even though the plan includes a phaseout structure and individuals making only up to $115,000 per year—not those in the highest tax brackets—would receive checks.

"Surging billionaire wealth hits a painful nerve for the millions of people who have lost loved ones and experienced declines in their health, wealth, and livelihoods," Chuck Collins, director of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies, told Bloomberg this week. "Worse, it undermines any sense that we are 'in this together'—the solidarity required to weather the difficult months ahead."

UN experts condemn Trump's pardon of Blackwater contractors as 'affront to justice'

A group of United Nations experts on the use of mercenaries said Wednesday that President Donald Trump committed an "affront to justice" last week when he pardoned four former Blackwater security contractors for the war crimes they were convicted of in 2015.

The Working Group on the use of mercenaries, part of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), issued a statement accusing the U.S. government of violating its "obligations under international law" by pardoning Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, and Dustin Heard.

Slatten was convicted of first-degree murder eight years after he fired the first shots into Nisour Square in Baghdad, killing a 19-year-old and setting off an onslaught that left 14 Iraqi civilians dead. Slough, Liberty, and Heard were convicted of voluntary and attempted manslaughter for their roles in the massacre.

The four convicted war criminals were released from prison after being pardoned by Trump on December 22, in a move that the working group said would "open doors to future abuses when States contract private military and security companies for inherent state functions."

"Pardoning the Blackwater contractors is an affront to justice and to the victims of the Nisour Square massacre and their families," said Jelena Aparac, chair-rapporteur of the working group. "The Geneva Conventions oblige States to hold war criminals accountable for their crimes, even when they act as private security contractors. These pardons violate U.S. obligations under international law and more broadly undermine humanitarian law and human rights at a global level."

With the pardons issued, working group member Dr. Sorcha MacLeod tweeted, the U.S. has failed "to ensure accountability for war crimes."

The working group called on all nations that are party to the Geneva Conventions to condemn Trump's pardon of the contractors, warning that "by permitting private security contractors to operate with impunity in armed conflicts, States will be encouraged to circumvent their obligations under humanitarian law by increasingly outsourcing core military operations to the private sector."

Nilz Melzer, the U.N. special rapporteur on torture, wrote that the pardons oblige "all other States to prosecute these perpetrators under universal jurisdiction."

The working group's statement comes a week after a spokesperson for the OHCHR responded to the pardons by calling on the U.S. "to renew its commitment to fighting impunity for gross human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law, as well as to uphold its obligations to ensure accountability for such crimes."

Also last week, former FBI special agent Thomas O'Connor, who investigated the Nisour Square massacre, denounced Trump's decision to pardon the former contractors, writing an exhaustive description at CNN of the evidence he reviewed in Baghdad, which showed no one had shot at the four Blackwater employees during the attack.

"A jury heard the evidence and found four Blackwater guards guilty of murder, manslaughter and weapons charges," wrote O'Connor. "The system worked and justice was brought to the deceased, the injured victims and their families. The families of those killed and wounded at Nisour Square will now watch those responsible for this tragedy go free thanks to a pardon by the President of the United States."

'Merry... Christmas': Watch Rep. Debbie Dingell drop House gavel in disgust over GOP's COVID-19 cruelty

Rep. Debbie Dingell made no effort on Thursday to hide her contempt for House Republicans' decision to obstruct the approval of $2,000 relief checks for Americans, nine months into a pandemic that has left more than 300,000 Americans dead, hundreds of thousands of small businesses permanently shuttered, an estimated 50 million people facing food insecurity, and tens of millions facing possible eviction.

"It is Christmas Eve, but it is not a silent night. All is not calm. For too many, nothing is bright."
—Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.)

The Michigan Democrat adjourned the U.S. House after Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) requested unanimous consent for an amendment that would increase $600 direct payments in the coronavirus relief package passed on Monday, to $2,000. Though the sum was endorsed by President Donald Trump this week, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) objected to the measure.

"So we do not have unanimous consent," Dingell said in a disbelieving tone before announcing, "The House stands adjourned until 2:00 p.m. on Monday, December 28, 2020."

"Merry Christmas," the congresswoman said with an emotional pause and discernible disgust after banging the gavel.

Dingell's closing remark was "about the most disgusted, sarcastic I've heard in awhile," tweeted congressional reporter Michael McAuliff.

Another observer noted that it appeared Dingell "wanted to insert a choice expletive in the middle of that."

After adjourning the House, Dingell spoke angrily at a press conference about the suffering she has seen in her own district and across the country and condemned the Republicans for their refusal to help alleviate it.

"It is Christmas Eve, but it is not a silent night," Dingell said. "All is not calm. For too many, nothing is bright. And for too many, they are not sleeping peacefully. I gave a town hall last night that had people crying, people terrified of what is going to happen... I've been talking to people who are scared they're going to be kicked out from their homes during the Christmas holiday, and still might be if we don't sign this bill."


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called on Trump to ensure that House Republicans stop obstructing the badly-needed relief and announced her intention to hold a recorded vote on a stand-alone bill offering $2,000 payments next week.

"House and Senate Democrats have repeatedly fought for bigger checks for the American people, which House and Senate Republicans haverepeatedly rejected," Pelosi said. "To vote against this bill is to deny the financial hardship that families face and to deny them the relief they need."

Civil rights groups denounce Georgia officials for closing early voting sites ahead of senate runoffs

Voting rights groups on Wednesday accused officials in at least two Georgia counties of voter suppression, pointing to the closures of several early voting locations in majority-Black and Latino communities ahead of two Senate runoff elections on January 5 which will decide whether Democrats or Republicans control the upper chamber.

State and national organizations including MiJente Support Committee and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund participated in a conference call in which they said officials in Hall County, with a population that's 8% Black and nearly 30% Latino, have cut the number of voting locations from eight during the November 3 election to just four ahead of the runoffs.

The effect of the closures is already clear, the advocates said, as turnout across the state has been high, with more than 1.4 million ballots cast since December 14, the first day of early voting. In Hall County, turnout in the runoffs so far has reached just 13%—far lower than the county's early voting numbers ahead of last month's election.

Civil rights groups' fears of voter suppression "isn't theoretical or hypothetical," Michael Pernick, the Georgia state lead for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund's voting rights project, told HuffPost on Wednesday.

"The reason Hall County's turnout is lower in the runoff is because Hall County cut early voting locations," he added. "We know this because turnout is up in almost every other county in the state, but not in Hall."

Hall County was carried by President Donald Trump in last month's election, with Trump winning 71% of the vote. But advocates say even the closure of four polling places in majority-Black and Latino communities could have a dramatic impact on the runoff elections between Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, who are challenging Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, respectively.

In a poll released Wednesday by InsiderAdvantage and FOX 5 Atlanta, Warnock had a 2% lead over Loeffler, while Perdue had a 1% lead over Ossoff. Four percent of respondents said they were still undecided, and the polls were within the 4.4% margin of error.

If Loeffler and Perdue retain their seats, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will hold control of the Senate, likely hamstringing the Democrats' hopes of passing far-reaching voting rights reforms and economic relief in the new year.

The closure of polling locations "is what voter suppression looks like," Tania Unzueta of the MiJente Support Committee told HuffPost. "This is one example of what we don't want to happen, particularly in an important runoff."

After facing criticism over its closure of seven out of 11 voting locations for the runoff elections, Cobb County, which includes suburbs of Atlantia, reopened two polling places. But advocates are still warning of voter suppression in the county, which President-elect Joe Biden won by 14 points in November and where the population of more than 750,000 people is nearly 30% Black and 13% Latino.

The two reopened sites will only be available to voters in the last four days of early voting, offering little relief to voters in a county where people have been facing two-hour waits to cast their ballots, according to the group All Voting Is Local.

The failure of Cobb County elections director Janine Eveler to fully restore access to polling locations will have consequences for voters' health as well as their civil rights, All Voting Is Local Georgia state director Aklima Khondoker wrote this week in the Cobb County Courier:

Over the general, when voters could access all 11 early vote sites, 14,586 ballots were cast during the first two days of early voting, compared to just 13,910 during early voting for the runoff—a 4.6% reduction in turnout. By contrast, other metro-Atlanta counties that kept all of their early vote sites open saw an increase in turnout during the first two days of early voting (Fulton, 25.1%, Gwinnett, 40.1%, and DeKalb, 12.3%).
High voter turnout aside, there are also serious health-related consequences with the reduction in early voting locations. Since Thanksgiving, the U.S. has set grim records for Covid-19 related deaths. Just this week, we surpassed 3,000 deaths in a single day. All signs indicate that the situation will get worse through the winter. And yet, even as the CDC recommends avoiding crowds whenever possible, Director Eveler refuses to restore early voting locations, forcing voters to choose between their ballot and their health.

Some counties in Georgia are increasing the number of polling places available to voters during the runoffs, All Voting Is Local noted on Twitter this week.

"Restoring all 11 early voting sites isn't a concession" to voting rights groups, Khondoker wrote. "It's restoring a baseline for voting access."

'Yes, exactly,' say progressives after Mike Pence warns Democrats will 'make rich poorer and poor more comfortable'

The grassroots organization People for Bernie on Tuesday advised the Democratic Party to take a page from an unlikely source—right-wing Vice President Mike Pence—after Pence told a rally crowd in Florida that progressives and Democrats "want to make rich people poorer, and poor people more comfortable."

"Good message," tweeted the group, alerting the Democratic National Committee to adopt the vice president's simple, straightforward description of how the party can prioritize working people over corporations and the rich.

Suggesting that a progressive approach to the economy will harm the country—despite the fact that other wealthy nations already invest heavily in making low- and middle-income "more comfortable" by taxing corporations and very high earners—Pence touted the Republicans' aim to "cut taxes" and "roll back regulations."

The vice president didn't mention how the Trump administration's 2017 tax cuts overwhelmingly benefited wealthy households and powerful corporations, with corporate income tax rates slashed from 35% to 21%, corporate tax revenues plummeting, and a surge in stock buybacks while workers saw "no discernible wage increase" according to a report released last year by the Economic Policy Institute and the Center for Popular Democracy.

Similarly, the Republican Party's recent attempts to roll back regulations include measures that have actively harmed working families, including the administration's termination of overtime protections for workers—resulting in an estimated $1.2 billion in lost earnings—and of requirements that federal contractors meet labor and wage standards.

While the GOP during the coronavirus pandemic has allowed enhanced unemployment benefits to expire and cited concerns over the federal deficit while blocking legislation to offer Americans a second round of $1,200 stimulus checks—despite the fact that the deficit has grown by trillions of dollars under President Donald Trump—progressives including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have consistently called for robust economic relief for workers.

Along with Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Sanders introduced legislation to provide Americans with monthly payments of $2,000 in May, saying the $1,200 direct payment included in the CARES Act last March was "not nearly enough."

In August, Sanders also introduced a bill to tax the "obscene wealth gains" of U.S. billionaires during the pandemic, which would raise at least $420 billion—a sum that would allow the popular Medicare program to pay all out-of-pocket healthcare expenses for everyone in the U.S. for a year.

Pence's description of progressive goals was "exactly" correct, author and commentator Anand Giridharadas tweeted.

Yes, and what's wrong with making poor people more comfortable?" asked Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.).

The consumer advocacy group Public Citizen denounced Pence for suggesting the government should not prioritize the wellbeing of Americans who are struggling financially during a pandemic, including an estimated 50 million people expected to face food insecurity this year.

"You have to be all sorts of twisted to think 'making poor people more comfortable' is a bad thing," tweeted the group.

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Millions of tenants 'headed for absolute disaster' after new year, owing average of nearly $6,000 in rent and utilities

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