Sen. Bernie Sanders, pictured departing the Capitol on Friday, is urging Democrats to reject a stimulus plan crafted by a bipartisan group of lawmakers. | Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images
Bernie Sanders is urging Democratic leaders to rebuff a $748 billion bipartisan coronavirus relief bill because it spends too little and does not include new direct payments to Americans.
In an interview, the Vermont independent said the legislation is “totally inadequate” and questioned how Democrats could fathom supporting a bill that’s so far short of previous proposals that ran into the trillions. Much of the bipartisan bill is funded with unused money from March’s massive CARES Act.
“What kind of negotiation is it when you go from $3.4 trillion to $188 billion in new money? That is not a negotiation. That is a collapse,” Sanders said by telephone on Monday afternoon. “We cannot go home until there [are] strong unemployment benefits plus $1,200 per adult, $500 per kid for every working person and family in this country.”
Sanders, who is on the Democratic leadership team in the Senate, said he communicated his views to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer privately. He said Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi need to force negotiations on a bigger bill and lean on President Donald Trump’s support for new stimulus checks and more government spending.
House “Democrats pass a $3.4 trillion bill, you have the Republicans in the administration talking about $1.8 trillion. And now you’re down to about $188 billion in new money [in the bipartisan bill], which does not include one nickel in direct payments for working families in this country. Totally unacceptable, and this has got to be rejected,” Sanders said.
Still, getting Senate Republicans to go along with anything resembling Sanders’s views could prove difficult. While Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) agrees with Sanders about providing new relief checks, it would likely boost the cost of any legislation to a place where many conservatives would oppose it. Congress has not approved any substantial Covid relief since April.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has proposed instead another round of “targeted” aid, while the group of centrist senators is pitching a $748 billion compromise spending bill alongside a $160 billion add-on of state and local spending with a temporary liability shield.
Sanders will have leverage with the Friday government funding deadline, and he can hold up funding the government to make his case for a new round of checks. He was coy on how far he might take his case as Congress desperately tries to wrap up its lame duck session.
“Congress cannot go home for the holidays unless we pass a $1,200 direct payment to working class adults and $500 in payments for their kids,” Sanders said. “Congress is not going to go home until we do that. That’s what the American people want.”