In an interview that made news because Jim Cramer called her “Crazy Nancy,” Speaker Pelosi lent her support to a bipartisan $125 billion restaurant aid bill that senators hope to ram past Mitch McConnell.
It is well known in financial circles that CNBC Mad Money host and subprime mortgage carnival barker Jim Cramer is wrong more often than he is right. Yet he is still afforded a primetime slot on the business news cable channel, and on Tuesday hosted Speaker Nancy Pelosi for an update on the stalled congressional COVID-19 stimulus package negotiations. The segment made headlines because Cramer called her “Crazy Nancy" to her face (it’s just after the 8:00 mark, wherein Cramer disputes that any additional stimulus deal could happen “What deal can we have, Crazy Nancy — I’m sorry, that was the President”).
But it was more newsworthy to the endless parade of closing SF restaurants, and the kitchen staff, wait staff, and bartenders who work at them, that Pelosi came out in support of the RESTAURANTS Act, a $125 billion relief package specific to the dining industry to cover the costs of payroll, rent, PPE and other costs.
“We have the RESTAURANTs Act,” Pelosi tells Cramer in the sound-bite clip captured below. “It’s expensive. It’s $125 billion. We would welcome some of that into our bill, which means, though, that we have to cut further into the original $3.4 trillion, but I think it’s important to do. I come from San Francisco, restaurants are our community life. You’re in the New York area, you know what that means. But it means that all over the country.”
Thank you @SpeakerPelosi for your support for the RESTAURANTS Act. America's 500,000 small restaurants and bars and the 11 million workers we employ are counting on Congress to save our small businesses. #SaveRestaurants pic.twitter.com/zSOYfdAolH— Independent Restaurant Coalition (@IndpRestaurants) September 15,
The RESTAURANTs Act (which belongs in the acronym Hall of Fame, because it stands for Real Economic Support that Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed to Survive Act) is not the same as the $3.4 trillion stimulus package the House passed in May. But as seen above, Pelosi is willing to swap out $120 billion or so to add it to the package that her chamber passed, and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has merely sat on for four months. As The Hill reported when the bill was introduced in June, it’s grant money that “can be used to cover payroll, benefits, mortgage, rent, protective equipment, food, or other costs.” While it’s meant to bolster small, independent eateries, after some negotiations it was expanded to allow “franchisees with 20 locations or fewer to access these grants.”
Some media reports describe it as a $120 billion bill, others call it a $125 billion bill. The bill has “bipartisan” support, in the sense that two Senate Republican support it, but the House version has six GOP co-sponsors.
That’s why I’m cosponsoring the RESTAURANTS Act, a bill led by @SenatorWicker in which would provide certain restaurants with upfront capital to keep their businesses going and Alaskans employed.— Sen. Lisa Murkowski (@lisamurkowski) September 14, 2020
Pelosi defends the hundred-billion-dollar bailout, correctly noting that the Federal Reserve is spending exponentially more than that to prop up the stock market.
“The Fed is spending trillions of dollars shoring up our economy in other ways, with monetary policy. We can fiscally spend the appropriate amount of money to meet the needs of the American people,” she told Cramer. “We are a consumer economy. The more we have, whether it's food stamps, unemployment insurance, rental checks, that is stimulus to the economy while it helps people maintain their dignity.”
Given the large number of co-sponsors, both the House and the Senate versions of the RESTAURANTS Act would waltz right through to passage if given a vote. Pelosi has said the House will not leave Washington, DC without voting on further stimulus, Mitch McConnell will turn his head into a mahogany desk before he allows a Senate vote on this bill as currently written. Meanwhile, half the restaurants in town are not operational, and things are even worse nationwide.
To ignore this crisis in the restaurant industry would be, well... crazy.